Study Guide

Song of Myself Section 51

By Walt Whitman

Section 51

  • As we near the end of the poem, the past and the present start to fade away from Whitman. He's concerned about what's next.
  • He's only going to stay another minute, so he'd better speak honestly before he snuffs out his evening candle and goes to bed.
  • Here is one of the poem's most famous and representative lines: "Do I contradict myself? Very well then . . . . I contradict myself; I am large . . . . I contain multitudes."
  • In analytic philosophy (the traditional philosophy practiced in England and the US), contradicting yourself is a thing to avoid at all costs. Whitman embraces contradiction. He is large enough to contain contradictory things.
  • The day is ending, and he wants to know who will be done with dinner to take a walk with him.
  • We're running out of time to talk with him. He has been doing all the talking, and we'd better speak up fast before he leaves.