Why are the Americans described as a "resistless restless race" in the poem "Pioneers! O Pioneers!" by Walt Whitman?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whitman had a healthy respect and love for all types of people in America.  In the poem "Pioneers! O Pioneers!" he describes all sorts of hardy, strong types that have forged the nation, been pioneers of the frontier, done the hard work that has built the foundation for America, and been the laborers sculpting the landscape.  Whitman calls these people "restless" because Americans in his time period were constantly working, constantly exploring, constantly helping to expand America's borders.  They didn't just sit idly by and accept America for what it was-they made more of it, added to it, and worked hard each day.  He calls Americans "resistless" because of that love that he has for everyone.  In the poem right after this line he cries, "O beloved race in all!  O my breast aches with tender love for all! O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all".  He feels a great love for all of the people he writes about in his poem; he can't resist their restless and beautiful natures.  This love for all types of people--especially the hard-working laborers and tradespeople--is a common theme throughout all of his poetry, and emphasized here again.

Those are a couple possible meanings behind that line.  I hope that it helps!

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