In the poem "Leaves of Grass," a child asks, "What is the grass?" What are the principal values that may be explored and enhanced through the child's question?

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Grass is a central image in Whitman's poetry. Grass is an very common thing, but the child's question cuts to the heart of Whitman's poetic sensibility. Like the child, Whitman too wonders about the grass (the poem begins with him loafing and "contemplating a spear of summer grass") so in...

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Grass is a central image in Whitman's poetry. Grass is an very common thing, but the child's question cuts to the heart of Whitman's poetic sensibility. Like the child, Whitman too wonders about the grass (the poem begins with him loafing and "contemplating a spear of summer grass") so in a sense, the question of what the grass is is another way of asking what anything is. The child's question gives Whitman an opportunity to explore the interconnectedness of all things.

The answers he gives bear this out: it is "the flag of my disposition" or a reflection of his individuality; it is "the handkerchief of the Lord" or a token of the divine presence in all things; it is the "produced babe of the vegetation" or the child of larger plants, suggesting that all plant-life is a kind of family; it is "a uniform hieroglyphic" or a puzzle common to all people regardless of class or race. Or it is the "beautiful hair of graves," a startling image that connects the dead to the living. Whitman dwells on this connection for many lines, culminating with the observation that “The smallest sprout shows there is really no death" and that "to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier."

So, in that sense, the grass is an image, or proof, of immortality.

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One principle value that grass seems to have in this poem is that it is democratic and not prejudiced since it grows everywhere between all peoples.  It is also found on graves - indicating it does not matter who the dead were, the grass will grow there. Below is a short analysis of some of the things grass is suggested to be in Section Six of the poem "Leaves of Grass"

One suggestion is that it is, "...the handkerchief of the Lord" meaning that every time you see and ponder grass, it leads you to the question of whose it is?  If you compare finding a dropped handkerchief to grass to the Lord putting grass on the ground you can understand this line.

Another definition of grass which Whitman gives is to compare it to a child - in that grass is the fruit (or child) of vegetation.  

 He also calls grass a “uniform hieroglyphic” which can be found everywhere in every area of the earth. In the same stanza he indicates that grass is democratic and not prejudiced as it grows everywhere among all peoples.  

He calls grass "the uncut hair of graves" seemingly indicating that grass grows over everyone's grave and the fact that it is uncut might be referring to the fact that grass will grow over anyone - even those for whose family does not care and groom the grave.  

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