Walt Whitman Essay Questions

Walt Whitman Essay Questions-82
With this definition, we see that apostrophe is in fact in opposition to the effect Whitman was trying to achieve-- that of an immediate and personal connection to the reader who is very much present in the poetic experience.

He strove to reach the everyman, in fact so strenuously that he has been considered obsessive (Greenspan 109). the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work" (Mason 41).

He saw his audience as perhaps the most important element of the poetry, saying "The reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem . Or, as he more bluntly put it, "To have great poets there must be great audiences" (Greenspan 127).

Indeed, we know that this individual search for knowledge is meant as one of the major ideas behind "Song of Myself" because we are told so by the speaker as the poem nears its conclusion: "You are also asking me questions and I hear you,/ I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself" (lines 1223-1224).

Yet, while the speaker claims to be unable to answer, the questions are also clearly not asked solely for the addressee alone to answer.

By using such direct conversational devices, Whitman was able to connect with his reader as no other poet did.

Further, Whitman did not desire to reach only a readership which was small or in any way limited to the academic elite.

In the poetry of Walt Whitman, such rhetorical questions are often asked--what am I? But in analyzing this same poetry, another question arises: who is this you that Whitman speaks to? Certainly many of Whitman's poems utilize the pronoun "you" traditionally, referring to an object or being directly defined within the poem (this is particularly true within the Drum-Taps poems.) Additionally, Whitman uses "you" in many places to address himself, thereby intensifying his poetic presence.

However, there is a substantial group of Whitman's poems in which the "you" becomes a direct address from the speaker to the reader.

He had faith in their ability to read and understand the goals of his poems. In assuming intelligence, Whitman assumed the reader's ability to synthesize unique thoughts and the desire for further knowledge.

He did not, however, always assume a completely knowledgeable reader, particularly when it came to the more universal, spiritual aspects of life.

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