Song of Myself
by Walt Whitman
Section 15 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
- More jobs. All kinds of jobs. Part of this poem is like reading the employment section of the newspaper. We think Whitman would make an excellent career counselor.
- He describes people according to their vocation, their particular role in society.
- Among the jobs he lists are the "contralto" who sings at church, the "jour printer" at a daily newspaper, a slave called a "quadroon," and a "lunatic." It's as if being a "lunatic" was just as respectable as any other job. Like we said, Whitman doesn't judge.
- Although he clearly has a very optimistic attitude, Whitman is not naïve. He is willing to admit that when someone has a limb amputated, the limb "drops horribly in a pail."
- He takes the bad with the good and doesn't shy away from gritty details.
- Whitman spends some time giving beautiful, memorable explanations of the different roles people play. Everyone fits into the community somehow; no one is out of place or doesn't belong. He doesn't elevate one kind of lifestyle over another.
- Even the President of the United States doesn't get special mention; he's just another name of the list.
- At one point, interestingly, Whitman does go out of his way to judge. In parentheses, he exclaims that it is "miserable" for people to make fun of a sloppy-looking prostitute. In other words, he only judges the judgers.
- He includes Native Americans in his list, as well.
- The majority of lines begin with the word "the," as in "The pavingingman . . . the conductor . . . the pedlar . . . etc."
- He claims to be like all of these people, and they are all like him. Everyone is a part of the same fabric of society.
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