Walt Whitman Essay Questions

Walt Whitman Essay Questions-19
A major factor in creating the child/student you in "Song of Myself" is the speaker's insistence on answering his own questions (or a least attempting very stridently to answer his own questions).Whitman has clearly put large amounts of effort into "play[ing] the role of the persuader" (Greenspan 125).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.

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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.

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.

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.

In particular, "Song of Myself" repeatedly poses such questions to the addressee.

At various times, the speaker asks such things as, "Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?

This allowed Whitman's speaker to take on an all-knowing, omniscient persona, which in turn gave the addressee the role of a child or student.

This style of "platform poetry" is marked most by its use of rhetorical questions, aimed directly at the reader (Hollins 91).

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