What is the tone of "Song of Myself " by Walt Whitman?

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The free-verse poem "Song of Myself" by Walt Whitman is considered one of the greatest works of American literature. It was first published in 1855 as part of Whitman's collection Leaves of Grass. The first edition of the poem had no sections. These were added later, as was the title.

As for your question about the tone of the poem, there is no one answer. After you read it carefully, you may find the answer to this question to be different than someone else's who reads it. As Whitman says in the poem:

You are also asking me questions and I hear you,
I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself.

To help you find your own personal answer, I will suggest some possible answers, and then you can choose which interpretation seems best from your own perspective.

The tone of the poem is exuberant. Whitman embraces and is in love with all existence. He revels in life and in all that he observes of life. The tone is accepting. Whitman regards all people—men and women, the rich and the poor, free people and slaves, the young and the old, people from all occupations and walks of life—with acceptance. In this respect, we can also say that the tone is universal in its total acceptance of every facet of existence. The tone is also immediate. The poet looks not to the past or to the future but lives in the present.

The tone is passionate, and in parts of the poem it is even overtly sexual. Whitman writes of the ecstasy of the touch of flesh to flesh and makes no secret of the fact that he has had multiple lovers. The tone is also spiritual. Whitman mentions God numerous times and emphasizes that God is present in all the great things and in the minutia of life.

Additionally, the tone is empathetic. To be empathetic means that you understand and are sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others. Related to this is Whitman's embrace of the diversity in people. The poem includes long lists of descriptions of many different types of people, and Whitman makes it clear that he accepts and embraces them all.

In conclusion, this wonderful poem includes all of these tones, so after you read it for yourself, decide which of them are most important to you personally (or even one that isn't mentioned).

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Whitman employs a tone of wonder and praise. He marvels at his own body—its "fragrance," his breath, the beating of his heart—as well as the earth around him. He uses words like "crotch" and phrases like "plunged your tongue to my bare-stript heart"; these words that embarrassed or seemed vulgar to others seemed sincere and beautiful to Whitman. He feels as one with everyone and everything. He says, "I am the hounded slave," and "I myself become the wounded person," and "I am the mash'd fireman." Whitman feels as though he "take[s] part" in everything, that he "see[s] and hear[s] the whole": the crying and cursing and loving. He reveres and longs to experience every facet of life, and he sees a kind of beauty and meaning in everything and everyone. Aspects of the body that might normally turn a person off, its natural odor for example, are wonderful to him. Aspects of life that might seem sad or ugly are likewise wonderful in their way.

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Generally speaking, Walt Whitman's tone in this poem is celebratory and joyous. The guy is definitely happy with his station in life. He's happy to be who he is and he loves the world that he is surrounded by. Both of those things cause the tone to sound very confident too. Whitman says what he says in a way that is completely unapologetic. Probably my favorite part about the overall poem and tone is that it never sounds insulting. That's an amazing thing when you think about. If you had to listen to somebody else talk about how awesome they are and how amazing their world is, wouldn't you start to get sick of it? Or at least feel slightly insulted that this person isn't celebrating you? But Whitman's tone is so infectious throughout this poem that the reader can't help but be swept up into the joyous and positive tone.  

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