What are some themes and symbols in "Song of Myself," with specific details?

There are lots of symbols in Whitman's "Song of Myself," and one of the most significant ones is the grass, which represents nature, sustenance, and regeneration: it is "the handkerchief of the lord" and a symbol of all people, "black folks as ... white." So it is a sign that America can be one united nation, as God intended. This symbol serves Whitman's theme of unity and togetherness in America.

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One main theme in Walt Whitman’s poem Song of Myself might be pleasure. Throughout the poem, the speaker appears to constantly experience delight, rapture, or pleasure.

Early on in the poem, the speaker states, “I am satisfied—I see, dance, laugh, sing.” Considering the array of the sights, smells, and desires, there’s a lot going on, and these things have positive connotations.

Another crucial theme appears to be a certain disregard for intellectual pursuits. It seems like the speaker doesn’t hold learning or academic endeavors in high esteem.

In the third section, the speaker states, “To elaborate is to no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.” In this instance, there’s no major difference between those who have learned a lot and those who haven’t learned much at all. The “learn’d” aren’t superior. They have no advantage. If “elaboration” is of no use, one could question why they bothered to learn the art of elaboration or explanation in the first place.

Again, it appears as if the body and the wonders of the tactile world take precedence in Whitman's poem. It seems like learning gets in the way of the human spirit. Look at section 47. The speaker describes themselves as a “teacher.” Yet they are not teaching philosophy or literature: they’re teaching “athletes”—a bodily subject.

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In Whitman's "Song of Myself," he uses various symbols to convey his key theme, which is that the singularity of the body and mind is to be celebrated but that, at the same time, we must remember that we are all part of one nation and should feel united under God.

Images of nature run through the poem, and Whitman is particularly invested in the idea of grass, "the handkerchief of the lord," representing the land beneath our feet and what this means to Americans. Whitman points out that grass grows beneath the feet of all of us, including Black Americans.

He uses the image of grass growing to emphasize the fact that life is a cycle. When we die, we are committed to the earth, and the grass that grows over our graves is therefore a part of us which continues. For Whitman, the fact that the grass grows under the feet of people of all colors is a reflection of the fact that Black men have died in America, too, and that the grass is as much a part of them as it is a part of white people.

The grass is a symbol, therefore, of regeneration and of America's resilience, but also of the ways in which this land has brought together people of all colors and backgrounds. Whitman urges his readers to celebrate themselves as he celebrates himself, but also to celebrate unity and democracy in America.

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"Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman celebrates the theme of democracy and the oneness of mankind, specifically the American people. As well, it represents Transcendentalist thought concerning mankind's common soul. The poem also focuses on the theme that life is a journey to uncover one's self, one's identity. The symbol encountered in the first section, that of I, literally appears to be the poet, Whitman. However, the I becomes larger than the poet:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you (Section 1).

The I symbolizes the self as well as modern man, or Every Man. We are all the I, celebrating and singing this song of democracy. Later in the poem, the I becomes the self on the journey to explore the universe:

"I know I have the best of time and space, and was never measured and never will be measured" (Section 46).

The I then becomes a symbol of us all on a quest that Whitman proposes we all undertake:

Not I, not any one else can travel that road for you,

You must travel it for yourself (Section 46).

A second important symbol is the grass. The grass literally represents the regeneration of nature. However, it also takes on symbolic meaning. The grass "is the handkerchief of the Lord" (Section 6); that is, grass symbolizes God's hand in nature. In this same section, grass becomes a metaphor for a child, a "babe of the vegetation" (Section 6). And, even more importantly, the grass becomes symbolic of all people as we are all equal like blades of grass:

Growing among black folks as among white,

Kanuck, Tuckahoe, Congressman, Cuff, I give them the same, I receive them the same (Section 6).

The I and the grass are integral to understanding Whitman's themes.

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There are several major themes in "Song of Myself".  1.  Celebrating yourself in all of your glory and faults.  2.  Reveling in the beauty of nature, and feeling a connection to it.  3.  The connectedness and unity of life and all living beings.

For an example of #1, look at the very first line in section 1:  "I celebrate myself and sing myself".  This is a major theme throughout all of the sections.  For #2, look at section 6 where Whitman talks about all of the things that grass could be, ending with it being himself after he has died (his body feeding the grass).  For #3, section 16 is a great example of Whitman feeling connected to all human beings.

These are just a few examples; the entire poem is packed with examples of these themes.  If you give it a read-through with those themes in mind, examples will jump out more clearly.  Good luck!

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