Literature is effective as a communication tool because it serves as one important vehicle of expressing one’s view through artistic form. Many literature pieces have already been found to be filled with certain ideologies so profound that it has changed people’s perspective or at least has been a vehicle of change (Mancuso). There is a certain celebration in literature nowadays on the essentially political and ideological presence in many literary pieces. One such celebrated author that many literature analysts and academicians believe to be filled with ardor for the use of literature in advocacy is Walt Whitman (Erkkila 4).
Walt Whitman is considered America’s most popular and influential poet. He had humble beginnings as he was born on May 13, 1819 into a working class household in West Hills, New York. He was named after his father who was a carpenter and a farmer named Walter Whitman Sr. His father was a liberal thinker who was a fan of Thomas Paine. When Walt became four, his father moved them to Brooklyn. Once when General Lafayette visited New York, he spotted six year old Walt from the crowd and lifted him up and carried him.
For Walt, that was some kind of a laying on of hands because the French hero of the American Revolution seemed like he anointed the future poet of democracy (Folsom and Price). This paper aims to situate the author on the context of his time and how his poetry is actually a reflection of the presence of political problems and political questions that arose in a rising powerful nation. There is a need to see the underlying rhetoric and styles that underwrite the general idea and opinion of the author on the many social issues that confronted him.
This paper will try to cover three political issues that figured prominently in many of his texts. These are: homosexuality and the body politic, African-American and liberation, and finally the question of the Union of States. The three issues that are stated above are just some of the important factors that need to be considered in the analysis of Whitman as a political poet. Although, Walt Whitman talked about diverse issues of politics, these three are just some of the issues that figured prominently in his text and at the same time these are issues that are still being confronted today by the United States and the rest of the world.
The claim of the paper is that Walt Whitman as a political poet believes that the problems of discrimination both for sexual discrimination or body politic and racial discrimination are all intertwined in the general dysfunction of what the United States believed as essence of the Union of States and democracy. When Walt was schooling, he attended a Brooklyn public school for six years. There he shared his classes with students of a variety of ages and backgrounds. In Whitman’s school, the children were huddled in one room except the African Americans who had to attend a separate class.
They were segregated at the top part of the building. Waltman did not like corporal punishment and he wrote about this later in his works. One of the early influences in his life was the radical Quaker leader Elias Hicks, an acquaintance of his father and a close friend of his grandfather, Jesse. He has a happy childhood and he spend happy childhood days at the farm of his grandmother (Folsom and Price). One of Whitman’s favorite boyhood activities were his visits to his grandparents on Long Island.
He loved the Long Island shore and the waters there had a different wonder for his young mind. One of his poems, “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking,” was part of his reminiscences with his boyhood experiences at Long Island shore. Because of his love for visiting museums, he acquired an eclectic kind of education and became the stuff of the material for his poems. He had an informal education that worked well for his own kind of education which included literature, theater, and even music, archaeology and geography. He became a teacher even if he had an informal education.
His reading and writing skills developed along the way and soon enough he was astute in the way he delineated the characters in his poems as he writes. “Never before have I entertained so low an idea of the beauty and perfection of man’s nature, never have I seen humanity in so degraded a shape, as here”. The situation of the homosexual in the United States during that time was no different from the African-American communities. Although to a certain degree, it was basically a peripheral issue as homosexuality is rather a private matter that was not allowed or tabooed in public discussions.
There had been no incident of actual gay rights movement during the Civil War periods of the United States. The reconstruction stage of the United States has afforded many Americans to actually move away from issues of sexual discrimination. The gay rights movement only emerged in the consciousness of the United States in the early 20th century following the increasing liberal ideas in the World War (History of Minorities II). The fact however, that this was not a mainstream issue during the late 19th century figured Walt Whitman prominently in this essential task.