Poem: I Hear America Singing By: Walt Whitman

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1. What is the significance of the poem? (i.e. what does it mean and what impact does it make on the reader?)
Answer: The poem "I Hear America Singing," means that all Americans are working happily at there jobs, and working hard at there jobs.

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  1. There is more to it than that....Look at all the types,kinds of people who are "singing" in this poem. What are these people doing? Is Whitman talking about actual "singing" or is he using the word singing to mean the pleasure one gets from accomplishment and achievement and opportunity.

    Take another look at the poem...in this kind of light.

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  2. Line 1

    In the first line of the poem, the speaker establishes his position as an observer and listener. The repetition of “I hear” serves to assert the significance of the speaker’s role in the poem. All that follows is filtered through the speaker and is part and parcel of his experience. Thus the poem depends on the speaker, on this individual consciousness, for its meaning. At the same time, the first line introduces the poem’s controlling metaphor: “I hear America singing.” The speaker envisions America as the culmination of the voices of the American people who are unique individuals.

    Lines 2-7

    The speaker then begins to chronicle various figures or characters familiar to American society at the time. While each is defined by his occupation, he or she is also singing and expressing his or her own uniqueness. Each figure is of the working class and is depicted going about the day’s work. These characters, according to the controlling metaphor, are presented as being “America.” Considering the figures from other socioeconomic classes that the poem omits, it becomes apparent that the speaker is presenting a particular vision of America. Though the poem puts forth the ideal of government as by and for the people, the examples of American people limited to those from the working class. In a sense, the speaker denies figures from other classes a place in the poem, and thus in America. By giving himself a place in the poem, the speaker does, however, assert his own position in this vision of America. Thus the poem becomes his song, his work, his individual contribution to the larger chorus that is America.

    Line 8

    Line 8 is particularly interesting considering the historical context in which the poem was written. By including the figures of the mother, young wife, and sewing girl, Whitman gives women their due place in the working class and acknowledges their contribution to American society and culture at a time when women still did not have the right to vote — when they literally had no voice in government. The poem thus anticipates a vision of America much more proximate to the one commonly held in modern times, in which women are seen and appreciated for their vital contributions both in and outside the home and in which parenting is regarded as an indispensable occupation.

    Line 9

    The speaker reinforces in Line 9 the metaphor of “singing” to mean individualism. The idea that each character is unique and has his or her own song, that each by virtue of his or her profession is essential to the whole of American society and culture, is expressly democratic in nature. In this way the poem celebrates American individualism.

    Lines 10-11

    Up until this point, each figure has been described as engaged in various forms of work or has been presented in relation to his or her respective vocation. The speaker broadens his scope at the end of the poem beyond this work identity, extending the poem’s definition of self and individuality.

    When the day’s work is done, “the party of fellows,” presumably not including the women figures of the poem, continues to sing. The individuals presented in the poem, while previously defined solely according to their work, are now seen as more well-rounded human beings who exist outside their work as well. Equally important, the chorus of voices that is America is described as “robust, friendly,” and the resulting song is “strong” and “melodious.” This choice of adjectives suggests Whitman’s particular vision of America as a powerful country of “fellows” where goodwill abounds. Most important, Whitman sees an America in which every citizen contributes to the welfare of the whole, and in which all working people are revered.

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  3. Thanks for all your help you really helped me out!!

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  4. WOW, Great Explication!!!

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  5. So, if you were to compare I Hear America Singing with Thoreau's Civil Disobedience what parts would be considered having the same meaning?

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  6. i would rather throw babies in trash cans than listen to thei !!

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  7. The poem underscores Whitmans basic attitude, wich is a part of his ideal of "Human Life".The american nation has based its faith on the creativeness of labor, wich Whitman glorifies in this poem.

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