What is the theme of "Song of Myself"?

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Indeed, Walt Whitman's iconic poem, first published in 1855 and republished several more times during the nineteenth century, is about everything. It was Whitman's attempt to help us see the interconnected nature of all things. Whitman scholar Ed Folsom asserts that "Song of Myself" was Whitman's attempt to preserve the Union, which was becoming increasingly divided as a result of slavery. It is a celebration of diversity and democracy, but that celebration begins with praise for oneself:

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
What is remarkable about the poem is that, though it assumes a tone of grandeur, it is equally wondrous of the small things—like atoms and blades of grass—that we tend to forget because they seem trivial or because they are too small for the eye to recognize.
In his democratic and unifying spirit, the speaker declares himself a citizen of every region—"a Southerner soon as a Northerner, Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners"—and a follower of every faith. The speaker also attempts to identify with black people (perhaps not so convincingly) and women as easily as he identifies with other whites and men.

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Another way to ask this question would be: What isn't "Song of Myself" about?! Walt Whitman's long poem, with its 52 sections of open verse, is about just about everything under the sun.

Take the opening section for example. It begins talking about an "I," the speaker (who in a number of ways resembles the poet himself) and "you" (whom I've always taken to be the reader or listener of the poem). The speaker then quickly moves on to talk about his soul and spears of summer grass, the smells in the air, his breath, the pleasures of the body and of nature and of the city, all sorts of human experiences and occupations, and on an on. In the end, I suppose it's not easy to answer in just a sentence or two what this poem is about.

My best attempt would be to say that "Song of Myself" is about affirmation (finding "good" all over the place) and about the beauty and delight of both the human body and the human soul. To me, it's always meant a lot that Allen Ginsberg singled out one line in Whitman's poem for particular praise: "I find no sweeter fat than sticks to my own bones." He said that the meaning of the line really hit him and stuck with him when he heard his fleshy high school English teacher read the line aloud.

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What is Song of Myself about, and what are the themes?

"Song of Myself" is Witman's almost (?) mystical testimoney to Democracy, the great democratic experiment.  In it he testifies to the essential oneness of everything:

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Whitman goes on to expand the "every atom" he shares with the reader to include "every atom" in American.  His all inclusive lists celebrate the widest diversity in America:

And I know that the hand of God is the promise of my own,
And I know that the spirit of God is the brother of my own,
And that all the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women
my sisters and lovers,

The pure contralto sings in the organ loft,
The carpenter dresses his plank, the tongue of his foreplane
whistles its wild ascending lisp,
The married and unmarried children ride home to their Thanksgiving
dinner,
The pilot seizes the king-pin, he heaves down with a strong arm,
The mate stands braced in the whale-boat, lance and harpoon are
ready,
The duck-shooter walks by silent and cautious stretches,
The deacons are ordain'd with cross'd hands at the altar,
The spinning-girl retreats and advances to the hum of the big wheel,
The farmer stops by the bars as he walks on a First-day loafe and
looks at the oats and rye,
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirm'd case,
(He will never sleep any more as he did in the cot in his mother's
bed-room;)
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,  (15)

Whitman is giving us the distincitve American literature that Emerson called for, a treatment of democracy not as a concept, but as a living reality where all are equal not in theory, but in day-to-day practice. It is a great celebration of the dream that is America.

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