Study Guide

Song of the Open Road Section 15

By Walt Whitman

Section 15

  • With another "Allons!" the speaker is telling us to wake up and get out of the house—whether we built it ourselves or not.
  • Don't try to protest, now. Our speaker wants us out of the dark. He claims to know everything—and expose it. Man, this guy sure has a strong self-image.
  • The speaker sees something bad in "you," something "as bad as the rest" (199).
  • Is he talking to you? Well… do you feel suddenly guilty?
  • Through people's laughter and dancing and eating, inside dresses and in washed and groomed faces, our speaker sees "a secret silent loathing and despair" (202). Things seem to have taken a dark turn.
  • There is no husband, wife, or anyone to hear the confession, claims the speaker.
  • He says that everyone has another self, hiding and sneaking around city streets.
  • This self has no form and doesn't speak, but apparently it's also "polite and bland" when either out in public—like in a railroad car or on a steamboat—or at home (205). This other self sounds pretty dry and dull.
  • Sure, it might dress fancy and smile pretty, but the other self is described by the speaker as "death under the breast-bones, hell under the skull-bones" (208)—not good.
  • Under all the fancy appearances and customary behavior, this other self never talks about… itself.

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