Exploring Whitman

Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Jessica Pike for September 15

Filed under: Uncategorized — September 13, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

In Walt Whitman’s letter to Emerson, Whitman discusses the lack of sexual description within literature and states, “This filthy law has to be repealed- it stands in the way of great reforms” (Whitman 1358). After reading Whitman’s thoughts regarding the suppression of sex within texts in his letter to Emerson, I believe Whitman placed an emphasis on the body and sexual experiences for a specific reason, mainly to demonstrate that sex is natural and should be included in literature.  When I read Whitman, I try to think of  Whitman’s poems serving as a model in which he wants the readers and thus the American people to follow. Thus, in “Children of Adam” and “Calamus” the focus is on love and relationships. Whitman wants readers to see that sexual experiences and friendships are a way to bind together as a nation and when there is friendship and love the product is equality.

Since we, as a class have discussed Walt Whitman as a prophet-like individual, in this section he is preaching that love can solve some of the injustices in the world. In “I Dream’d in a Dream”, Whitman describes a utopian city that was invincible to attacks and states, “Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust love, it led the rest…”(Whitman 284). Also, in “To the East and to the West”, Whitman further illustrates the intersection between love and the nation when he writes, “I believe the main purport of these States is to found a superb friendship” (Whitman 285).  In these lines, Whitman does not specifically mention what kind of love, if it be hetero- or homosexual it does not matter, merely Whitman focuses on the importance of friendship.

Whitman finds pleasure in companionship and in “I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing” Whitman uses nature to describe the power that friendship has. Whitman expands on this idea when he reflects, “I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there without its friend near, for I knew I could not” (Whitman 279). Whitman highlights experiences with women and men through the many poems in “Children of Adam” and from each poem readers can see that physical intimacy goes hand in hand with companionship. Whitman writes:

To pass among them or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment, what is this then? I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea (253).

This physical intimacy and touch is something that binds humans together as well. Placing an emphasis on the body in “I sing the Body Electric”, Whitman lists parts of the body from both women and men. Whitman does not state, which he believes is greater, yet he states that each “please the soul” (253). Whitman uses these lines and describes physical intimacy and sexual experience as a natural part of friendship that can be not only pleasing to the soul, but also can create a common equality among all humans.

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