Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman

A poet’s greatness can be determined by style and expression, as well as the believes and values developed from childhood, however, the greatest contributing factor is how life has influenced the poet. The way poets interpret life has a direct reflection on their poetry. Throughout a poet’s lifetime, the interpretation of events that have happen from childhood to adulthood shape and form the poet’s thoughts which are often displayed in their writings. Comparing Emily Dickinson works to the works of Walt Whitman., Whitman works were expressive, bold and reflects his personality making him a better poet. Whereas, Dickinson poetry comes in short bursts and requires the reader to search for meaning. Whitman grew up in the country, however he lived and worked in the city as journalist, and editor for the Brooklyn Freeman, a newspaper he founded in 1848 to express his opposition to slavery. During the civil war he was a nurse. Whitman was a social butterfly, involved in public events and well-liked by many people. However, Dickinson, was born into a wealthy, highly religious family that lived in New England. Dickinson was very spirited but described herself “a mourner among children” while in school. Dickinson’s childhood seclusion continued into her adulthood. She later became a recluse focusing on writing for herself. As the social butterfly Whitman’s desired to write for everyone, which was reflected in the topics he wrote. The content of Whitman poems was positive and uplifting, Whitman wrote on topics of patriotism, the bible, and things that were applicable at that time. “Whitman looked at what was good about life and simply wrote about it. In his poems Whitman also focuses on the individual. Stating that individuals should be treated as such and appreciated” (Baym). An example of Whitman’s patriotism and his uplifting wisdom can be seen in his poem “I Hear America Singing”. The theme of the poem is that back when America was a country it was free and lively. America was such a free country in that “Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else” (Hirschfield). However

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