Whitman writes himself into his poetry. He is a bard and traveler on a mission to document the spiritual and physical realities of life in nineteenth century America.
The United States
Whitman's "I" is also meant to convey a personification of the United States. Whitman sees his own ideals and dreams as those of his country. Thus, his songs are songs of the United States as much as of an individual man.
Whitman greatly admired Lincoln and his leadership during America's Civil War. While Lincoln does not appear as a physical character in Whitman's poetry, Leaves of Grass does include several paeans to Lincoln's legacy.
The Common American
Whitman chronicles the lives of common Americans and upholds their work as true expressions of the American ideal. Their simple work demonstrates the ability of democracy to elevate the mundane into a spiritual reality.
Whitman is continually fascinated by the sea and by its metaphorical qualities. He often uses the term "Old Mother" to signify the sea's inviting and spiritual hold over him. He also recognizes its danger and its ability to take away life. Whitman often idealizes the lives of sailors who seem to have no other purpose than to live in this "mother's" grasp.
Whitman powerfully uses the reader as a character in several of his poems, including "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" and "So Long!" The reader is meant to become Whitman's comrade and close friend; a part of Whitman's journey.
Birds play important roles in several of the poems, including "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking." Birds often bring songs of love that awaken, or reawaken, spiritual notions in the poet.
Leaves of Grass Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Leaves of Grass is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Whitman lived through some of the most tumultuous years in the history of the United States. He was a witness of, and participant in, the United States Civil War which lasted from 1861 to 1865. Whitman chronicles this profound historic event in...