Exploring Whitman

Just another Looking for Whitman weblog

Jessica Pike for October 20th

Filed under: Uncategorized — October 18, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

I feel that Morris truly brought alive the Walt Whitman that arrived at the Lacey House during the height of the Civil War. The description of Whitman that was portrayed throughout “The Better Angel” and Calder’s “Personal Recollections of Walt Whitman” was a man that was a selfless individual who felt a calling to assist the wounded soldiers. However, this calling was by no means a religious calling. Morris makes it clear that Whitman did not have a religious motive when visiting the soldiers and even mentions that Whitman “did not bring any tracts or Bibles” (Morris 109). Yet, as described by Morris and Calder, Whitman daily made it a priority to visit these soldiers and doing so put his own health and money on the line. So, as after reading the letters and articles for today, questions about Whitman’s motives were running through my head. I thought why would Whitman do this? What did he get out of interacting with the wounded soldiers? Then, two sentences from Calder answered this question for me: “Humanity in all conditions and exhibitions was profoundly dear to him. A human being was an object of love, and it gratified him that these men and boys loved him, and depended on him” (Calder 207). Whitman saw in both these wounded soldiers and his readers an outlet where people would depend on him and where his self-worth and ideas would be valued. At the same time however, Whitman was dependent upon his readers and the wounded soldiers.

From the readings on the blog and Whitman’s own poetry and prose, it is evident that Whitman wanted to connect to his readers. As I have mentioned in previous posts, the direct references of “You” and “I” almost make it seem that Whitman is having a reflective conversation with readers. In all of Whitman’s writings, he discusses his thoughts and feelings regarding his current situation and the world around him and without an audience, he would be unable to do so. So, as much as Whitman wanted readers to be dependent on him, Whitman was relying on the reader as an outlet where he could express his views, observations, and opinions. Likewise, through his writings Whitman was able to have a relationship with his readers, where they were dependent on him to give the facts of what was occurring in Virginia during the Civil War. Although this view was only a personalized glimpse of what only he experienced, today, readers are still dependent upon Whitman’s writings in his journal entries, letters, and Drum Taps in order to understand the atrocities that were occurring in the Civil War makeshift hospitals.

At the same time, as noted by Calder, when Whitman was going from bed to bed visiting the wounded, Whitman took joy in knowing that the soldiers depended upon him. The praises such as what Colonel Richard Hilton said regarding Whitman, “When this old heathen came and gave me a pipe and tobacco, it was about the most joyous moment of my life” (Morris 109) must have provided Whitman with that strength to visit and maintain relationships with the wounded and dying soldiers. So, although the soldiers were dependent upon Whitman’s presence and gifts, Whitman was equally dependent upon the soldiers. Morris mentions how Whitman also benefited from these visits and states, “His hospital visits were good therapy for him-as much as the soldiers…they restored his belief in the inherent good of the American people” (Morris 100). Whitman saw in these soldiers an America where people would die in order to stand up for what they believed in. As reflected in Drum Taps, Whitman had a hopeful vision of what America would be like after the Civil War, and these soldiers reinforced his optimistic outlet towards a changed America.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



Skip to toolbar