DICKINSON AND WHITMAN

Topics: Walt Whitman, Poetry, Leaves of Grass Pages: 6 (2151 words) Published: March 30, 2014
COMPARISON BETWEEN WALT WHITMAN AND EMILY DICKINSON’S POETRY

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman came from different religions, beliefs and even from different economic status, however both were considered as two of the most influential writers in American poetry. The great American poet Emily Dickinson was educated in an upper-class Puritan family with a strict sense of religion while Whitman was born in a working-class family that held beliefs related to Quakers. It does not matter where writers come from or which are their beliefs, but something that it is necessary to be a good writer is wit, knowledge and passion for writing. Even Dickinson and Whitman were different in some aspects of their lifestyle, they broke with the traditional writing styles, being innovative, writing about new themes that had never been treated before. Even though, Emily Dickinson used short and simple lines to write her poems and express her ideas or complex messages and Walt Whitman used more complex language, they shared some aspects in their poems. Although they have written about the same topic, they did not write about it in the same way. Some of the topics that these authors shared in their works are: God related with religion, death and nature but neither of them with the same point of view. They treated the same topics, but perhaps the way to focus on it was so different because of their different lifestyles and beliefs. As it was mentioned above, one important topic to compare of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman is God and their point of view about religion. Through the different kind of education that they have received, their thoughts about God and religion are so different. Nevertheless, both challenges in their poetry the traditional conception of the Christian God. Whitman based his philosophy more in Transcendentalism while Dickinson questioned the Calvinistic, Emersonian optimism and Transcendentalism beliefs. Both authors have different thoughts on God treatment. In the Christian sense, God is the creator of the world and he is a higher being, everything is subordinate to God. Another topic of Christian thought is the superiority of the soul over the body. Emily Dickinson questioned the Christian view of God, affirming that God is comparable with human consciousness. In one of her poems she uses “The Brain” as a metaphor for human understanding and consciousness. Thus, it means that the human mind it is able to comprehend so many things as: the life, the universe, the world and even to comprehend itself. To assert it she wrote stanzas like these: “The Brain—is wider than the Sky—” (88 Norton)

“The Brain is deeper than the sea—” (88 Norton)
“The Brain is just the weight of God—” (88 Norton)
On the contrary, Whitman questioned the superiority of the soul over the body in one of his poems, creating equivalence between these two topics, saying: “I have said that the soul is not more than the body,

And I have said that the body is not more than the soul” (69 Whitman). Then, after doing this equivalence between the soul and the body, he dethrones God. With this stanza he mainly challenges the Christian God, emphasizing the importance of the individual and contradicting the Christian thoughts. “And nothing, not God, is greater to one than one’s self is” (69 Whitman) Therefore, Dickinson broke with traditional Christian religious beliefs, affirming that human consciousness was comparable to God while Whitman creates equalities between God and Man, body and soul. Looking at God from Emily Dickinson’s point of view, she questioned God’s existence in many of her poems and used theological vocabulary in an unusual way. Even apparently in one of her poems she made fun of God:

"I never spoke with God Nor visited in Heaven- Yet certain am I of the spot...

Bibliography: BAYM, Nina. FRANKLIN, Wayne. GURA, Philip F. KRUPAT, Arnold. The Norton Anthology of American Literature: Seventh Edition
FOLSOM, Ed. PRICE, Kenneth M. 2005. Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to His Life and Work
LEITER, Sharon. 2007. Critical Companion to Emily Dickinson: A Literary Reference to Her Life and Work
WHITMAN, Walt. 2008. Leaves of Grass: The Death Bed Edition
WHITMAN, Walt. 2006. Song of Myself
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