Suggested Essay Topics

1. Discuss Whitman’s notion of democracy. Why does he urge the individual states to “Resist much, obey little”?

2. Describe the mystical and spiritual references in Eidolons.

3. Discuss Whitman’s enthusiasm for “the Modern Man” in One’s-Self I Sing and the working people he describes in I Hear America Singing.

Song of Myself
1. The central image of Whitman’s book is the single blade of grass. Discuss this image and its symbolism.

2. Do you agree with Whitman that one should “loafe” and relax on the grass in order to fully appreciate life and nature? Why or why not?

3. Whitman asserts that he is a part of all people and things, and they are a part of him. Discuss this idea.

4. Discuss Whitman’s notion of God and spirituality.

Children of Adam
1. Compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the image of Adam first introduced in To the Garden the World and the image of Adam reintroduced in As Adam Early in the Morning.

2. Judging from the poems in this cluster, how does Whitman feel about Nature?

1. What is the definition of “calamus” in the dictionary, and why does Whitman find it an appropriate title for this cluster of poems in Leaves of Grass?

2. What does Whitman want to use his poems here to express? What does he hope to leave behind “to be perused best afterwards”?

3. According to Whitman, what is a love relationship like? What does it involve? What are the dangers, and what are the rewards?

Birds of Passage and Sea-Drift
1. Discuss the adventurous American spirit of the pioneers as depicted in Whitman’s poems. Do you think this is a realistic portrayal of the people and events of the time? Is there a similar spirit among Americans today?

2. What does...

(The entire section is 810 words.)