Walt Whitman Essay Questions

Walt Whitman Essay Questions-72
By using such direct conversational devices, Whitman was able to connect with his reader as no other poet did.Further, Whitman did not desire to reach only a readership which was small or in any way limited to the academic elite.

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He had faith in their ability to read and understand the goals of his poems. In assuming intelligence, Whitman assumed the reader's ability to synthesize unique thoughts and the desire for further knowledge.

He did not, however, always assume a completely knowledgeable reader, particularly when it came to the more universal, spiritual aspects of life.

" (line 32), "Do you guess I have some intricate purpose?

" (line 382), and the aforementioned "What are you?

In order for there to be an addressee, there must be an addressor speaking directly to that addressee.

Further, by using the term addressee, we get a sense that there is a concrete aim for the speaker's words: a human, living reader.In the poetry of Walt Whitman, such rhetorical questions are often asked--what am I? But in analyzing this same poetry, another question arises: who is this you that Whitman speaks to? Certainly many of Whitman's poems utilize the pronoun "you" traditionally, referring to an object or being directly defined within the poem (this is particularly true within the Drum-Taps poems.) Additionally, Whitman uses "you" in many places to address himself, thereby intensifying his poetic presence.However, there is a substantial group of Whitman's poems in which the "you" becomes a direct address from the speaker to the reader.And, just as Whitman's extremely human "I" takes on a myriad of personas, so does the addressee of his poetry.* There are four main personas given to the addressee by Whitman's directed poetry: the child/student you, the comrade/intimate you (or, in Whitman's diction, the "camerado"), the future you, and the alien/other you.Numerous reworkings and revisions were integral in creating every edition of Leaves of Grass as Whitman attempted to reach every reader most effectively.Yet at the same time that Whitman intended to address such a wide ranging audience, he also made certain assumptions about that readership.Indeed, we know that this individual search for knowledge is meant as one of the major ideas behind "Song of Myself" because we are told so by the speaker as the poem nears its conclusion: "You are also asking me questions and I hear you,/ I answer that I cannot answer, you must find out for yourself" (lines 1223-1224).Yet, while the speaker claims to be unable to answer, the questions are also clearly not asked solely for the addressee alone to answer.With this definition, we see that apostrophe is in fact in opposition to the effect Whitman was trying to achieve-- that of an immediate and personal connection to the reader who is very much present in the poetic experience.This leaves a variety of vague words: "you," "reader," "reader-you." Perhaps the most effective term is that of "addressee." This term not only accounts for the speaker's tone, it also gives a sense of the interaction between the speaker and the reader.


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