Song of the Open Road

by Walt Whitman

Start Free Trial

Paying special attention to the roles of geography and space, as well as their connection to identity, please analyze "Song of the Open Road" by Walt Whitman.

In Walt Whitman's poem "Song of the Open Road," the notion of identity is explored and referred to by symbols of space and time and our place in the universe.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In his poem “Song of the Open Road,” Walt Whitman explores the theme of identity and refers symbolically to our place in the universe, describing the grand scheme of life—which, according to Whitman, is to live a life you choose:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

In the poem’s opening stanzas, the speaker declares himself with vehement fervor: “Healthy, free, the world before me.” Here, Whitman alludes to the self, the theme that a person chooses for themselves the path they will walk. And in doing so, we free ourselves, no longer subject to fate or the will of “good-fortune”:

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

In the poem, traveling the “open road” means to be content with one's self, strong in believing that the path is one's own. We must reject all external forces, noting them as nothing more than pure “querulous criticisms.” And we must be prepared to walk the path alone.

In the third stanza, the speaker states,

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

Here, the speaker brings the setting into view, suggesting that we stay grounded to the earth because the constellations, the "heavens," do not belong to us. It is assumed that the speaker believes that the constellations represent the heavens because of the line "The earth, that is sufficient." This alludes to the poem's argument against pursuing ambitions not of our own making. It is this notion that the speaker wishes to dispute throughout the rest of the poem.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team