Self-Realization and American poetry
The American literature of 19th century is marred by exponential literary themes. Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson are known to be revolutionary American poets dealing with profound literary themes elucidated in their poetry. The cardinal themes of these two American poets are the identity of self, religion, God, and nature. The theme of identity and self-realization is the crux that bounds both poets. However, one can observe different poetic styles and contrastive American culture in Emily Dickinson’s poem “The Soul Selects Her Own Society” and Walt Whitman’s “I Celebrate Myself”.
Emily Dickinson in her poem explores the importance of self-realization and sovereignty upon the inner self or the soul regardless of the influence of others or society. It is evident in the verses “The Soul selects her own Society —Then — shuts the Door —To her divine Majority” (Dickinson). These lines crystalize the significance of the sovereignty of our self. Dickinson is promulgating the idea that taking our own decisions which are most comforting to our soul/ self regardless of any outside dynamism. On the other hand, Walt Whitman explicates the poignant theme of “Self” for embracing other human existences and their culture. He uses freestyle and loose structure for his poem “I Celebrate Myself” to broadcast his multiple modern themes. Whitman uses this poem to reflect upon the American culture envisaging spirituality, nature, and self. The prominence of self, humanity, and other coexisting beings is the prime theme in these of following excerpts “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, —And what I assume you shall assume, —For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you” (Whitman).
In a nutshell, both American poets are illuminating upon the theme of “self”, with contrary philosophical views. Emily Dickinson is elucidating this theme with the eminence of sovereignty and self-realization. Contrastingly, Whitman is celebrating the theme of “self” coexisting with spirituality and human beings.
Dickinson, Emily. “The Soul selects her own Society.” The Complete Works of Emily Dickenson (2005).
Whitman, Walt, and Michael John Trotta. “I celebrate myself.” Leaves of Grass: the First (1855) edition (1855): 28-96.