How does Walt Whitman show individualism and idealism in his poem "Song of Myself"?

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Discussing individualism in Song of Myself can be tricky. While the title would suggest this an autobiographical work about Whitman—and on one level it is—the "I" of the poem is, nevertheless, most often associated with a universal "I." Whitman's soul and self expand to encompass a oneness with the universe. For example, he begins his poem with a statement that sounds individualistic:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself

But then goes on to explain two lines later that:

every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you

establishing his "I" as a universal voice.

There are also places in the poem, however, such as the first stanza of section four, where Whitman pictures himself as a distinct individual. Here he writes of experiencing:

The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues ...
These come to me days and nights and go from me again ...
But they are not Me myself.

Whitman lists places and experiences that he...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 891 words.)

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 14, 2020