Whitman’s treatment of self and democracy in Song of Myself


Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is not only a poem but actually a democratic universe. Here in this poem, Whitman represents the importance of both body and soul. The self in this poem has a universal significance. It comprises ideas, experiences, psychological states, and spiritual insight. From a broad sense, it has a democratic interpretation.  

More Notes: Walt Whitman

The drama of self:

“Song of Myself’ may be regarded as a drama of self, a person, a human being, put freely, fully, and truly on record, and an American with strong democratic impulses, mystical tendencies, and equalitarian feelings. Whitman talks of the individual self but that individual stands for a group of persons, the Americans. So “Song of Myself’ is not just a celebration of the poet himself as a man and an American; it is what he possesses in common with all others that he feels to be glorious and worthy of a song. In it, Whitman becomes his own person, the whole world, the whole universe, and the whole eternity of time.  


Whitman celebrates no individual person, nor does he celebrate himself. Though he often says “I celebrate myself”, the self-celebration throughout is a celebration of himself as a man and an American. In “Song of Myself” Whitman constructs a democratic “I,” a voice that stands not only for himself but also for all average men. In singing himself, he is also singing for others. So, he says,  

I celebrate myself, and sing myself, 

And what I assume you shall assume 

Sense of identity:

Whitman has a sense of identity not only with a man but with all leaving creatures. Whitman’s sense of “oneness of all” makes his democracy universal. The Kinship between all creations is evinced in section 6 of the poem “Song of Myself”. Here, the simple spear of grass becomes the symbol of democracy.  

individual virtue: 

Whitman emphasized individual virtue, which he believed would rise the universal virtue. Improving individual virtue is the way of becoming a true spiritual democrat. His idea of social and political democracy is that all men are equal before the law and have equal rights.   

Democratic and Universal: 

Whitman is a singer of the self as well as a spokesman for democracy. He believes that only in a free society can individuals attain self-hood. He says,  

I speak the pass-word primeval, I give the sign of democracy  

This is Whitman’s expression of the idea of democracy taken from “Song of Myself”. In this interpretation, Whitman says that the freedom offered by democracy is for all not for a few. It’s not renouncing those of other races, creeds, or social standings but included all the people.  

More Notes: Suggestions


Whitman is undoubtedly the most authentic voice of the United States of America. His most celebrated poem “Song of Myself’’ is regarded as a drama of self and equal democratic feelings. This poem is not only the celebration of the poet but also the celebration of all Americans. Whitman is here representative of his own, great America, the whole universe, and the whole eternity of time.

Rashedul Islam
Rashedul Islam

Hi, This is Rashedul. Researcher and lecturer of English literature and Linguistics.

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