In Song of Myself, where is Whitman in regards to the reader?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't think that Whitman makes any qualms about where he is in relation to the reader.  Whitman's "I" is a universal one that is borne out of his own subjective experience.  From this, he hopes to broaden his experience to that of the reader:

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am, . . . Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

This position of Whitman standing outside of "the game" allows him to funnel his own experience to that of the reader.  Whitman links his own experience to that of the reader.  He does not see his position as any different as the reader, except that his job is to forge a connection to the reader.  The universality that is such a part of Whitman's experience is one that he brings to the reader, in the hope of a shared union between his voice and what the reader internalizes.  I think that this is where Whitman is in relation to the reader.  He sees himself as a part of what the reader undergoes in trying to understand this universality, an experience where the reader and poet both submerge their own individual and distinct reality into a universal conception of both self and others.