In section 24 of Walt Whitman’s poem ‘Song of Myself’, Whitman announces himself as the speaker of the poem. This is the first time that he announces himself as the author and speaker in the poem and it is 24 sections in. Whitman calls himself a ‘kosmos’, meaning that he is very knowledgeable, especially about things that most people are not. He makes it seem as if he is capable of knowing everything and represents everyone in the world. He stands up for prisoners and slaves and then says: “Whoever degrades another degrades me” (Whitman, 41). He covers topics that are not normally covered or that are not socially acceptable in this time period. Some of these topics are sex, lust, outcasts, and people that are normally not accepted in society. He talks about the human body like it should be worshiped. Saying that the head is like a church, and the armpit aroma is even better than a prayer. Whitman comes to the realization that earth is the beast and they hold power over him, he is not the one in control.
There are many themes throughout section 24 of ‘Song of Myself’. This section is similar to the rest of the poem. This section is engulfed with heavy use of enjambment, free verse poetry, and repetition. This poem is written for everyone and not for one specific audience. He speaks to and for all people and never discriminates. He thinks of everyone as equal in this world. This poem is written in free verse, which shows that Whitman does not care what society thinks of him and how he likes to stray away from the social norm. He shows this by speaking carefree about sex, nature, and socially unacceptable things.
Whitman uses enjambment throughout this section of the poem to enforce the reader to think hard about what is being said. Enjambment is known as the continuation of a line without a pause beyond the end of the line. It makes it seem like there is more to the story than is on the page, and that there is a deeper meaning. For example, “Hefts of the moving world…. silently rising freshly excluding” (Whitman, 43). Reading a line of enjambment makes you feel as if you are experiencing it rather than reading it. It comes off as more of a thought than a line on a page. Enjambment makes the story feel more realistic and more life-like.
Repetition is something that Whitman uses in this section of ‘Song of Myself’ and throughout the whole poem. Whitman starts many lines with the phrase ‘voices of’ throughout lines 509 through 520. The use of repetition shows the significance of the phrase and that is very important. In this case, ‘voices of’ is very important and is something that Whitman wants us to remember. It also gives an emphasis what Whitman is trying to convey and that it makes the reader remember it. In this same section of the poem, Whitman is speaking for people that normally do not have voices in society, such as prisoners, slaves, thieves, the sick, and dwarfs. He calls for a change and gives the silenced people a voice. He is standing up for every individual and thinks that everyone should be treated equally. Whitman calls for change in the world and wants to change the opinion of these outcasted people. He believes that everyone should be treated equally. This is a very important part of this section because he is addressing social injustice and calling for change.
‘Song of Myself’ was written by Walt Whitman shows where he stands on social norms and standards. He writes this to stand up to social inequality and makes sure that this poem is for everyone and not just one social class. Whitman is a pioneer of this time period for standing up for injustice and social inequality. This is shown throughout the poem but explicitly shown in section 24.
- Whitman, Walt. 'Song of Myself'. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, by Michael Elliott et al., Shorter Ninth ed., vol. 2, W. W. Norton & Company, 2017, pp. 25-69.