How does Whitman see the individual "soul" in relation to the new world of technology? Is he optimistic or fearful? By contrast, explain the relationship the two men share in Hemingway's story and how it reflects their attitudes toward the technology of the world in which they live.
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One of Walt Whitman's biographers writes that although he claimed to be the poet of science and progress, he was "at heart opposed to Darwinism but afraid to say so openly." His "new religion" came less from science and far more from the Hebrew prophets although, it is written, Whitman tried to fool himself through " some sort of Heglian sophistry." Whitman was a Humanist, extolling man as the measure of all things; yet there is also some of the Romanticist in him, too, in the lyrical nature of subjects of his poetry. In his poem "Eidolons" [idealized persons], Whitman extols man optimistically,
Beyond the lectures learn’d professor,
Beyond thy telescope or spectroscope observer keen, beyond all mathematics,
Beyond the doctor’s surgery, anatomy, beyond the chemist with his chemistry,
The entities of entities, eidolons.
Indeed, Whitman perceives man as a cosmic personality who attains a certain immortality by identifying itself with God-in-nature. For Whitman, everything has an eternal soul, and all objects have "reference to the Soul."
In contrast to this optimistic ideal, Nick's youthful illusions lead him to rationalize that nothing is “absolute,” nothing is “irrevocable.” While he and his friend Bill talk and drink whiskey, Bill reveals his disenchantment with love: "Once a man's married he's absolutely bitched...He hasn't got anything more. Nothing." In his turn, Nick describes his relationship with Marjorie as like "the three-day blows [that] come now and rip all the leaves off the trees," leaving them, too, with nothing. Thus, in Hemingway's story, there is a sense of disconnection and alienation. Man is ultimately alone--not a cosmic personality--to cope with the nothingness of life, and its treacherous storms.
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