Democratic Vistas

by Walt Whitman
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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 158

Whitman's Democratic Vistas (first published in 1871) is a product of its historical and cultural moment. Specifically, it evidences the tremendous cultural void that resulted after Abraham Lincoln's death in 1865 and the subsequent dramatic changes in the political, material, and cultural circumstances that took place during Reconstruction.

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Whitman's essay is a call to action to his country. At the advent of having so many new black citizens able to vote and a relative preponderance of middle-class people, also newly enfranchised by the products of the Industrial Revolution, Whitman urges America to embrace a mass consciousness that is inclusive and liberated.

Nevertheless, Whitman insists that the individual must be the touchstone of any great civilization. He also supposes that individualism and creativity are one and the same. Education and creativity, however, are quite different. According to Whitman, Americans need to rise above materialism by cultivating creativity in individuals within this newly-liberated society, rather than being satisfied with wealth and education.

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