What are some examples of metonymy in the poem "Song of Myself"?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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It is more difficult to identify metonymy in Whitman’s work than you would think, because of his literary habit called “listing,” which is almost the opposite of metonymy.  According to Umberto Eco, listing signifies the incorporation of all elements in a category by extension from those examples given.  In Whitman, for example, by saying:

The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the 
clank of the shod horses on the granite floor, 
The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls, 
The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous'd mobs, 
The flap of the curtain'd litter, a sick man inside borne to the 
hospital, …”  or “The heavy omnibus, the driver with his interrogating thumb, the clank of the shod horses on the granite floor, The snow-sleighs, clinking, shouted jokes, pelts of snow-balls, The hurrahs for popular favorites, the fury of rous'd mobs, The flap of the curtain'd litter, a sick man inside borne to the 
hospital” Whitman is implying all the sounds of the street he has ever had contact with, but only listing some examples.

Finding a true, simple example of metonymy is difficult.  Perhaps “the policeman with his star quickly working his passage to the centre of the crowd,” might come close (a pure example is “The general hung up his sword” meaning he retired).  The whole long section (and Leaves of Grass in general) is built on this practice of listing.

 

 

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