The Definition of who People are Varies from Person to Person

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Walt Whitman’s poem “Song of Myself” was written before the civil war and which the nation was divided. The poem itself is a self identifying poem about himself and all different types of people should be brought together as one. In section 16 of the poem, after analyzing the text, form, and historical context, can be theorized that the narrator argues that the upcoming civil war will soon bring unity to the north and the south since the nation is divided due to diversity. Many people have different perspectives on their self identity but due to similar life experiences they are all related in some shape or form, which brings unity to different groups.

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A human being grows throughout their lifetime because they observe and learn from their mistakes. Whitman demonstrates his growth over time by the use of paradox. Whitman self identifies himself as, “I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise” (line 330). Whitman’s use of a paradox is to get the reader engaged by thinking more deeply into the real meaning. A person cannot be physically young and old, but growing from young to old can form who someone is through the lessons they have lived through.

A young person has not had many life events yet, therefore, they are still self identifying themselves. A young person grows from being foolish into a wise human being because they have learned from their mistakes based on past experiences. Whitman knows that most people have differences within them even himself; “I resist any thing better than my own diversity” (Whitman line 349). The meaning of being diverse is being someone unique in their own way. However, everyone is unique in their own way but many people can relate to each other due to similar feelings or lessons they have learned.

During the time period of when the poem was written, there was conflict between the southerners and northerners. The upcoming outbreak of the civil war was due to the different beliefs between the free and slave states and would end up defining what type of nation the United States would become. Whitman writes; “The Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and hospitable down by the Ocenee I live” (Whitman line 335). Even though the north and south both have different perspectives before the war, they will soon be brought together because they will both be involved in the same traumatic event. He demonstrates that diverse groups will be brought together through similar experiences and being able to accept people for who they are because everyone is somehow related from that event. He states,

“Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the largest the same” (Whitman line 334). He is theorizing that no matter how diverse someone is, somehow everyone is connected because of life experiences. Whitman uses the word “comrade” in the poem to demonstrate that people are all involved in a similar activity, for example life activities. He theorizes that everyone is eachothers comrades because people can grow from one another and learn from their life activities.

Whitman’s use of form and historical content, defines that different self identifying groups are all linked in some shape or form through the use of experiences. He defines who he believes he is but connects other types of groups within the poem because he has grown from them. Whitman’s example of the south and the north describes how through the experience of the civil war that the south and the north are connected through an event they both had been through. Whitman proves that people are diverse in many ways but are related by experience and events that have affected them. Whitman theorizes that through life experiences everyone is related because people learn from others’ mistakes, therefore, everyone is eachothers comrades. 

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The definition of who people are varies from person to person. (2021, Oct 13). Retrieved February 7, 2023 , from

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