Whitman’s poem “I Hear America Singing” showcases a catalog of Americans singing.  What are these Americans celebrating through their singing?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"I Hear America Singing" by Walt Whitman is a celebration of Americans and the simple tasks or jobs they do every day. In this poem, "singing" is a metaphor for the sounds of each person's daily tasks. He calls these sounds "varied carols" and he lists many of the ordinary professions and the cheerful "singing" which is connected with each. Consider these lines:

The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
 

The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work.

The poem as a whole draws attention to the simplest tasks, many of which are done without pay. A mother, a young wife, a young girl doing laundry or sewing, and a group of young men apparently just enjoying spending time together. This poem celebrates the everyday work of Americans in Whitman's day. Today, of course, there would be a different set of workers, perhaps, with a different set of "songs" (think technology and the sounds of many of today's jobs), and not all would be content with their tasks. The principal, though, is the same--drawing attention to the common man doing his job and enjoying it.

I have included a great eNotes link to Walt Whitman in case you need more information.

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gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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Throughout Walt Whitman's poem "I Hear America Singing," he catalogs various people celebrating their lives as they are engaged in their daily tasks. Whitman showcases carpenters, masons, shoemakers, wood-cutters, mothers, and young people singing throughout the day and night. Whitman believes that the essence of America is in its working-class and glorifies their service throughout the poem. Each person is celebrating "what belongs to him or her and to none else." Although each laborer engages in different tasks, they are each celebrating the joy they feel working towards their individual goals. Whether the goal is a carpenter completing a project, or a mason constructing a wall, each person finds pleasure in their work. Whitman romanticizes the daily lives of working-class Americans by depicting the songs they sing throughout the day and night. They celebrate their productivity and opportunity to earn a living doing work that they enjoy. The collective positive spirit of the various laborers illustrates Whitman's idealized view of America. 

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