Walt WhitmanWhitman 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 StatesWhitman'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.
Abraham LincolnWhitman 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 AmericanWhitman 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.
The SeaWhitman 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.
The ReaderWhitman 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.
BirdsBirds 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 Essays and Related Content
- Leaves of Grass: Major Themes
- Leaves of Grass: Essays
- Leaves of Grass: E-Text
- Leaves of Grass: Questions
- Leaves of Grass: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Walt Whitman: Biography
- Leaves of Grass Summary
- About Leaves of Grass
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of "Inscriptions"
- Summary and Analysis of "Starting from Paumanok"
- Summary and Analysis of "Song of Myself"
- Summary and Analysis of "Calamus," "Song of the Open Road," and "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"
- Summary and Analysis of "Sea-Drift" and "By the Roadside"
- Summary and Analysis of "Drum-Taps"
- Summary and Analysis of "Memories of President Lincoln" and "Autumn Rivulets"
- Summary and Analysis of "From Noon to Starry Nights" and "Songs of Parting"
- Whitman's Legacy in Literature and Film
- Related Links on Leaves of Grass
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources