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500 words

danique for 9/22

In the last lecture, we had some great ideas on how to tackle understanding literary texts. After that class I began to think about some of the questions we asked and wondered what their answers would entail. The questions we thought of during our class discussion helped us to further analyze Walt Whitman’s character and personality.

 One of the things that strike me the most was his level of compassion for the runaway slave. In his poem “Song of Myself,” in Walt Whitman’s 1855 edition of “Leaves of Grass” he writes, “The runaway slave came to my house and stopped outside, I heard his motions crackling the twigs of the woodpile, through the swung half-door of the kitchen I saw him limpsey and weak, and went where he sat on a log, and led him in and assured him, and brought water and filled a tub for his sweated body and bruised feet, and gave him a room that entered from my own, and gave him some coarse clean clothes…” From this passage here we can ask many questions about both the hospitality of Walt Whitman and the nature of the “runaway slave.” This passage in his poem makes me think first of why would Walt Whitman not proceed to do what some of the other folks regarding runaway slaves during this time of 1855, where there were still acts of segregation and slavery taking place. For example, sometimes if people saw that a runaway slave had approached their doorstep, the mean slave masters and hunters would shoot them down, beat them, torture them, hang them, or even worst send them back to where they came from. But yet, there were even some that, like Walt Whitman, had compassion for people and desired to help them in anyway possible, whether it is making them food, giving directions, clothes or a place to sleep at night.

 As we, the students in class began to interpret Walt Whitman’s poem, we looked at it in a couple ways. We first observed the text in a biographical and historical context. Now tackling the biographical context we asked questions based on the passage above. Some of these questions included what type of exposure did Whitman have to slavery? What experience did he have in nursing? Did Walt Whitman ever come in contact with a runaway slave before? I began to wonder about these same questions and even thought of some on my own, such as how did the runaway slave distinguish Walt Whitman’s house as a safeguard and not one of an evil slave master? What events lead up to Walt Whitman becoming so compassionate and hospitable to foreign people, especially during a time where it was unlikely to care for a runaway slave? These are some of the question, based on this passage that interested me and may want to further interpret and discuss.

 This class was really helpful because it made us not only think more deeply about the name Walt Whitman, but his character, personality, background, past, and sexuality and the type of influences he had on people as well as what  influenced some of the decisions he made. Interpreting the literary text made us also think outside the box of his family or the things that he was known for and to try to correctly analyze the man Walt Whitman.

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