Walt Whitman

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How would you compare the themes in the poetry of Whitman with the poetry of Dickinson? How would you compare the themes in the poetry of Whitman with the poetry of Dickinson?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Though both speak of the themes of self and death, Dickinson focuses more on a philosophical exploration of the elusive realities of these themes, while Whitman focuses more on a celebration of these themes.

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Both Whitman and Dickinson use nature as a metaphor for human life.  Natural themes are prevalent in both their poetry, and both use the animals and places to tell us something about human nature.  For example, Dickinson describes a frog in "I'm Nobody" and Whitman also uses animals and creatures.

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We need to think of purpose and ambition when it comes to these two very different poets. Dickinson never meant her work to be published, from what we can gather, and sent her poems mostly to close relatives. She only gained fame after her death. Thus the scope of her poetry is restricted to the everyday, the America of the individual and her unique take on it. Whitman, by contrast, deliberately set out to write grandiose works capturing the experience of America as he saw it. He set out to...

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