Walt Whitman’s seminal book of poetry Leaves of Grass has several selections that are centered on crafting and defining the American Dream. Whitman extols the virtues of the American Dream even in the prologue to Leaves of Grass. Indeed, he considers the United States a poem that grows more distinguished as it grows and develops:
“The United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem. In the history of the earth hitherto the largest and most stirring appear tame and orderly to their ampler largeness and stir.... Here is not merely a nation but a teeming nation of nations. Here is action untied from strings necessarily blind to particulars and details magnificently moving in vast masses” (996).
Whitman’s emphasis on this burgeoning American Dream is especially prevalent in “Song of Myself.” The title is deceptive, as Whitman is not merely writing a poem that celebrates individuality, but rather he is writing an American creed in some sections. The American Dream is on display in part 50 in the poem:
“Perhaps I might tell more. Outlines! I plead for my brothers and sisters.
Do you see O my brothers and sisters?
It is not chaos or death-- it is form, union, plan-- it is eternal life-- it is Happiness” (1054).
Here, Whitman tellingly uses “Happiness” in a direct allusion to the Declaration of Independence. Thus, “Song of Myself” is just one poem within Leaves of Grass that acts as a blueprint to the American Dream in its allusions to independence and happiness, values that are still essential to the American Dream to this day.
I pulled my textual evidence from the Norton Anthology of American Literature, Volume 1, 17th ed.