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Song of Myself by Walt Whitman: An Accurate Reflection of the Time in Which It Was Written

By wal22 Mar 13, 2014 317 Words
Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself”, specifically the first section, most assuredly provides an accurate reflection of the time in which it was written.

It is a prophetic piece of work, not only providing a sense of what was happening during the moments of writing, but also alluding to what was to come.

American expansion serves to widen divisions in the country’s unity, both socially and economically.

Internal tensions, between Northern and Southern states, become increasingly overt. Main areas of contention are the distribution of state and federal powers and the volatile issue of slavery.

We can glimpse the inevitability of civil war in the lines of Whitman’s poem.

The narrator “presents himself as the embodiment of American ideals, and the profit of its political salvation.”

The reader is invited to love one another, celebrate differences, and cease detaching.

Similar to Thoreau’s “Walden”, the narrator seem to be prodding the reader to WAKE UP!

Liam Corley - Literary Contexts in Poetry: Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"

The historical context is of monumental importance when interpreting Walt Whitman’s poetry, specifically the first section of “Song of Myself”.

The absence of historical knowledge, for the time in which it was written, is likely to leave the reader wondering why the narrator is filled with such conceit.

Once we are introduced to the fact that this poem was written in 1855, a time when the author had witnessed American expansion, intense patriotism, slavery, and the stirring of discontent that would lead to civil war in 1861, we are capable unraveling and interpreting the meaning of these lines.
Upon future readings we are able to see that the “I” in “Song of Myself” extends far beyond the narrator himself and that in many ways, it is a love note to the universe, life, and democracy, appreciating both the individual and the whole that he/she is part of.

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