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A Journey

Symbol Analysis

The journey is the main extended metaphor in the poem, which begins in the daytime and ends at night. The poem itself is a journey, and this is one of the reasons why "Song of Myself" is considered an epic, similar to other famous journey-poems like Homer's Odyssey and Dante's Divine Comedy. It's not a "real" journey in the sense that no person could ever possibly go all the places that he claims to go. Instead, it's an imaginative journey in his mind, or more accurately, his soul.

  • Section 1: The journey begins with an invitation from Whitman to his soul. Except they don't go anywhere. They just hang out and "loafe" in the grass. Our parents always used to get on us for "loafing."
  • Section 10: Whitman frequently uses short narratives or scenes called "vignettes" that take him from place to place. In this section, he becomes a hunter and witnesses the marriage of a trapper, among other things.
  • Section: 20: Whitman's contact with the earth has very erotic overtones. One of the most controversial couplets in the poem is the metaphor in which he compares his relationship to the earth to newlyweds having sex.
  • Section 21: The speaker uses apostrophe to address the sea, as his journey brings him in contact with the ocean.
  • Section 32: At the end of this section about animals, he introduces a paradox: he can travel faster than a horse even as he remains in one place. How does he do that? (Hint: He uses his mind!)
  • Section 33: This is the big section for journeys. It's also the longest section in the poem. Here the speaker is a metaphorical ship journeying over land and sea (it's a metaphor, so his ship is allowed to cross land) going all over America and the world. "I travel . . . . I sail . . . ."
  • Section 34: He tells a story-within-a-story (another vignette) about a bloody massacre in the Mexican-American War.
  • Sections 35-36: He tells a vignette about a naval battle in which the Americans beat the British.
  • Section 46: He makes the metaphor of the poem-as-journey more explicit than ever, saying, "I tramp a perpetual journey," and describing how he puts his arm around our waist.
  • Section 51: He warns that the journey is ending and "I stay only a minute longer."
  • Section 52: He has to leave us to continue on his journey. Fortunately, he's waiting for us just up the road.

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