How does "Song of Myself" focus on specific American ideals and themes?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" focuses upon Democratic ideals, among which are the value of the individual. Thematic of "Song of Myself" is the expression of the self and the love of nature.

In "One's Self I Sing," Whitman extols both the individual and nature:

The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag,
The delight alone or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides,
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun.
Further, Whitman "sings" of the acceptance of all the variations of nature as well as the different races of the country. For instance, Whitman writes of the Native American and the runaway slave. "And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own," he declares, expressing the Democratic ideal of the equality of men.
In "I Hear America Singing," Whitman celebrates all who contribute to America, the country he loves. He lauds the mechanic, the carpenter, the mason, the boatman, the shoemaker, the woodcutter, mother, and young fellows.
In the end, the self merges with nature, and it becomes universal. Whitman writes this of the universal self:
I am enamour’d of growing out-doors,
Of men that live among cattle or taste of the ocean or woods,...
The crew of the fish-smack pack repeated layers of halibut in the hold,
The Missourian crosses the plains toting his wares and his cattle,
While the poet desires to hold the sanctity of his individual self, he also wants to merge it with the universal self, which implies the identification of the poet's self with mankind and the mystical union of the Absolute Self.