Walt Whitman

by Alex Ritter

Biography

  • Born on May 31st, 1819 in West Hills, New York
  • Died on May 26th, 1892 in Camden, New Jersey
  • Worked first in the printing industry, then as a teacher when he was 17
  • Renowned journalist and poet of the 19th century
  • Nickname was "The Bard of Democracy"

Major Works

Collections of Poems

Leaves of Grass (2 versions)

Drum Taps

Democratic Vistas

Passage to India


Major Themes of Whitman's Works

Democracy

Whitman saw democracy as a way for people to incorporate their beliefs into their daily lives, so they could live out democracy as a way of life, rather than just a political system. He shows that democracy will fail if all individuals aren't included equally in his poem, "Song of Myself." Many of his poems were based around people coming together as a community and sharing ideas equally.


The Circle of Life

Early on, the US was growing at a tremendous rate, but attempts at secession and the violence of the Civil War took a toll. The population explosion and death count of the Civil War balancing each other out made Whitman focus on the human life cycle, specifically death and how necessary it is. This is shown in his poem, "When the Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd," which uses imagery to describe the life cycle of flowers.


The Individual

Whitman's ideal society consisted of a self-sufficient and equal, but unique individuals. This is especially prevalent in his poem, "Song of Myself," which states, "I celebrate myself, and sing myself." This went along with his idea of democracy as a way of life, saying that an individual democracy was composed of many unique, equal individuals with different, valuable views.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nla-JDEp4jw