Walt Whitman Vs. Emily Dickinson

Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson are two literary legends whose works influenced and contributed substantially to two major stains in modern poetry. Their revolutionary styles resonate in today’s literary world just the same as they did in the late 1800′s early 1900′s. However, both poets are famous for having their own unique style of writing that could be described best as a contrast between one another.

Walt Whitman’s works are very extensive, descriptive, and elongated and he’s best described as talkative or expansive. Each line and word within his poems seem to be drawing a picture, though his poems seem to go on forever and ever in length. In his poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”, when he writes he is expanding on what he wants the reader to see and feel, not just painting a picture for the reader. The way he described “The sea gulls oscillating their bodies, the hay-boat in the twilight, and the belated lighter” made the simple things seem so in depth and beautiful. Another line that demonstrates his style is “receive the summer sky, you water, and faithfully hold it till all downcast eyes have faith to take it from you.” Yet Whitman is so much more than being one dimensional, so I would also describe Whitman as gregarious, meaning he loved to interaction with people and his extrovert personality is evident in his works. Another one of his literary trait is revealed from his poem “Song of Myself” as it tells how much he fascinated himself with the line “my respiration and inspiration, the beating of my heart, the passing of blood and air through my lungs,” which simply painted a picture of himself and loving every minute of it. Whitman left behind a momentous collection of writings for us all to read in his great honor, he was also a true figure in the arts of literature in the time of his era.

Emily Dickinson’s ideas and writing is the complete opposite from that of Walt Whitman. The words compact and concise best describe her. Her poems give so much thought and meaning in so few words. Although she does not paint such a picture for you in her writing, she allows you to paint the picture for yourself. She pacts her words with a lot of meaning, poem 435 is a perfect example of this, “Much Madness is divinest sense-to a discerning eye-Much sense-the starkest madness-Tis’ the majority.” Her poetry shows many things one could get from it. The sight of such insanity is considering, accepting, and comprehending that we are all a slightly mad. She was very secluded and it seems that she did not like having people around. She could also be portrayed as idiosyncratic a little different in her style and a bit abnormal, “I heard a fly buzz when I died.” She does though have a mind that seems to wonder down such a dim path, “when it comes the landscape listens-shadows hold their breath-when it goes tis’ like the distance-on the look of death.” Time is the essence to be able to understand this woman. Poetry was the key to expressing her inner feelings in ways that otherwise would have never been done.

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The Fall of Icarus

The catastrophe of Icarus comes from Greek mythology of a fallen idol that’s described by William Carlos Williams in “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.” Williams tells us about Icarus’ death, “According to Brueghel”, which took place when the year was evolving in all its ceremony to the season of spring. Icarus on his waxwings takes the reader on a mythical flight path as he soars smoothly through the sky. This poem doesn’t seem to be about Icarus and yet, we explore the scenery along with him. Rather than a story, the poem is the journey, the scenery, and the very essence of a day in spring. We realize the true focus of Williams’s poem at the final line when it said this was “Icarus drowning.” The poem rather than a flight has a surprising descent as shown by Williams who exposes to us deception. As each section of the poem gradually leads the reader to the death of the character in the end. Icarus has always been a symbol for the poet’s upward flight that ends in tragedy. The irony of his death is that it goes unnoticed in the spring, a mere splash in the sea. I feel that Williams, like all poets, fear that his passing will go “quite unnoticed”, signifying the life of a poet who always felt the world had never fully recognized his accomplishments.

Hughes & Williams

Langston Hughes was a highly influential African American poet during the Harlem Renaissance. Although this poem is very personalized, Hughes is speaking about blacks as a whole and what they endured. In “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, Hughes basically states that blacks have seen and been through civilizations that have risen and fallen, and because of that, their souls have “grown deep like the rivers” that they have seen. Slave trade was present in all the rivers that Hughes mentioned in this poem. The Euphrates, Congo, Nile, and Mississippi were all rivers that transported slaves and blacks as a whole were able to see the “muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset”. They were able to experience change and when slavery was still present, it was dreary and dark like the muddy bosomed river, but when it was abolished, the river soon turned golden in the sunset. I think that this is true and that there is a big impact that the black society has made all around the world. They have experienced a lot of hardships and were suppressed by the white man and finally are free. They have been able to bring culture to America and their roots are deeply grounded in this nation like the rivers that are “older than the flow of human blood”. Due to their endurance and perseverance, their race has gained wisdom that transcends time itself.

In “Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes, it reflects an event in his life, but also the fight against ignorance and discrimination. He says that he is the “only colored student” in his class, but he has the same interests as the whites in his class. Just because he is black “doesn’t make [him] not like the same things other folks like who are other races” and some ignorant people do not understand that. I think that there will still be discrimination since both races may not want to be a part of each other, but still, they can learn from each other. Although his teacher was “older—and white—and somewhat more free” he explains that blacks will always have an impact on whites and vice versa. Also, I believe that although Hughes was the only black student, he did not want to be treated differently, but seen equal, as an American.

I think that William Carlos Williams and Langston Hughes have mostly different styles of writing. William Carlos Williams is more abstract with his poems and sometimes it seems like there may be no meaning behind it. For example, his poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” is eight lines long and talks about a red wheelbarrow beside white chickens. Also, his poems are vague, short, and describe a small scene that can have multiple meanings. Langston Hughes on the other hand, is not so abstract and he depicts very specific images and events (historical sometimes) and is usually trying to make one specific point. Even though there can be many meanings to “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, he still writes in sentences instead of phrases and the reader can make sense out of what he is writing. Also, Hughes rhymes occasionally unlike Williams, but they both wrote for the advancement of America.

Love Poems

My favorite poem has to be “True Love” by Judith Viorst out of all the love poems that we read in class. I find it fascinating because it is very realistic and shows you the true nature of being in love and in a relationship. It is not too cliché and lovey-dovey, but it’s underlying quality shows that the people in this relationship are truly in love. For example, the woman does not “resent watching the Green Bay Packers” even if she is “philosophically opposed to football”. In order to spend time with her husband and share his interest, she is willing to do something she is not necessarily interested in. She also says that they can still feel their true love towards one another even though there are things like tooth decay, dandruff, cigarette cough, and acid indigestion that “dampen the fires of passion.”

“True Love” by Judith Viorst depicts a genuine view on true love and what married couples actually go through which is why I chose this poem over the others. It shows you the ups and downs of a relationship and I think that is important because there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Also, there is a bit of humor that is always a plus. The poem “Oranges” by Gary Soto shows a very sweet, innocent, young, and sort of “puppy love”. It makes my heart warm and fuzzy nevertheless because I have never experienced that kind of love, it is hard for me to relate and be attached to this poem. “Beneath My Hand and Eye the Distant Hills. Your Body.” by Gary Snyder is very intimate, sexual, and passionate, and maybe too passionate for my taste. It is very flattering because they would be talking about how great my body is if I received this poem, but it focuses too much on the physical aspects and is too sensual. In “I’ve been Under Many Ceilings” by Jose Villamil, it says that someone has slept with many people and has been under many ceilings, but they finally want to settle down with one person. This can also be realistic, but if someone wrote this poem for me, the thought that they have been with so many people would linger in the back of my head and increase the level of paranoia that I have for that individual.

“Sexy”

“Sexy” is told from the point of view of a woman, Miranda, who is sleeping with a married man, Dev. While Dev’s wife is away in India, he continues to visit Miranda on almost a daily basis, and when they are away from each he calls her almost every hour to say how much he misses her. Over time, Miranda begins to get attached to Dev. Meanwhile, Miranda has conversations with her co-worker, Laxmi, who continually tells Miranda about her cousin who just found out that her husband had been cheating on her. Laxmi doesn’t know about Miranda and Dev, so she always provides her comments on her cousin’s situation which make Miranda rethink her “relationship” with Dev. Miranda’s doubts get worse when Dev’s wife returns from India. Dev limits his visits to once a week on Sundays with the excuse that he is going jogging. In order to keep Dev’s attention, Miranda purchases “things she thought a mistress should have” such as lingerie and a silk cocktail dress. However, when she wears these new things in front of Dev, he hardly notices at first and once he does, he demands that she take them off. A few weeks later, Miranda has to babysit Rohin, the son of Laxmi’s cousin. He spends the afternoon with Miranda demanding and asking her to do things such as drawing pictures and giving him coffee. Rohin ends up finding the cocktail dress that Miranda had bought to impress Dev. He asks Miranda to put it on, and she does. Rohin makes the comment that Miranda looks “sexy” in the dress, which was something Dev once called her. Miranda is shocked by the comment from the boy and she asks him what he even thinks that means. He tells her “It means loving someone you don’t know”. This is the rude awakening that Miranda would inevitably find. The following Sunday she tells Dev that she has a cold and that he shouldn’t come over. Miranda decides that she will only see Dev one or two more times and then end things with him because it’s not fair to his wife. However, Miranda is deprived of those last visits because of bad weather and other plans with Laxmi, and it’s obvious that Miranda just wasn’t meant to see Dev those last few times.

I think many people who have not been there do not realize how easy it is to rationalize something like this.  Most mistresses talk themselves into thinking that the man is only with his wife because of the children, or her mental health, or for his parents, or even that he is about to leave her.  I feel that Laxmi was a great cousin for helping her cousin through these rough times when her husband had left her for some women he didn’t know who he had met on a plane. Sometimes things happen, but as for Dev he didn’t tell his wife that he had met a women and that he just wanted it all. He was content with his wife not knowing and being able to keep Miranda waiting there. I feel for Miranda and the fact that she hadn’t experienced many things in her life and Dev gave her a lot of that. Although she should have known Dev never lied to her he told her that he had a wife the first time they met and she went along with it anyways. I believe that no one should get themselves in that situation, but most of all that a man should be faithful. I’m not trying to say that there aren’t temptations in life, but whether you fall a victim to those temptations is completely up to you. It took a young boy telling her what things really meant for her to have the courage to end the lovely temptation she had given in to so long ago. As for Laxmi’s cousin I believe that she is very weak and a lot of women are when they are use to something they can’t accept the fact that it changed. She of course had a reason to be sad, but to let your child see you that way and not even spare him one bit of the pain is wrong. In the end, I like how Laxmi and Rohin unknowingly gave Miranda advice to help her see that what she was doing was wrong. Everyone’s dreams become reality but in this story, Miranda’s fate was telling her that it was time to end things now.

Extra Credit

Industrialization/Urbanization/Modernization

In the early 20th century the United States had a great expansion and economic growth that led to a massive boom in industry and technology. People began to think of the future and the future of their children, so the need of technology and machinery grew greatly. Although all magnificent things bring about the evil side of people and ideas. Cities grew at significant rates but this brought about millions of deaths with it. I believe that the modernization period created destruction and chaos to families, society, and children.

Large corporations owned thousands of workers during this time, many of which worked up to sixteen hours a day with no breaks. Children were the easiest to come by as well as the most replaceable. In “Out Out” the author shows how the “buzz saw snarled and rattled” which can represent the voice of the owner yelling at the child to hurry up or to work faster. As for the boy he represents the weak and poor society dwelling on the sorrows from these corporations taking over their lives. The big city could be described as a machine one of which has parts and pieces to make it function as a whole. The boy can be a piece of this machine, but if the boy were to die he would have “no more to build on there” which would create a severe problem and cause the machine to stop working. This corporation were self-centered and couldn’t careless for a fragile life, by the next day there would be a new boy in this place. This is way we have created child labor laws to stop cruelty like this from happening today.

Evil is upon the big cities at during this era, most would have a hard time believing this but there are those that know that machines will bring about the destruction to this world. The author in “Howl” indicated the chaos of society would happen as a result of materialism and conformism. He indicates that “Moloch whose mind is pure machinery” brings about the control that humans give technology in the everyday lives, but in fact it truly brings them one step closer to the end of the human race as a whole. Materialism and conformism is inviting evil into society because this is causing hard attitudes of American during this time. In the bible, Ionsson suggest that Moloch was in the early testament as a fake God where many children were being sacrificed. This is simply just another perfect example to the end of a dream to the thousands of people with a family and home. Sacrifice and torture for the ones you love and are out to protect will simply never be enough at the hands of a big city society.

Large differences between wealth of owners and the lives of workers could be described as modernization. Great evil and destruction same with such technology that we own today. Even though lives were lost and familiar created torn apart, people leave evolved from these hard times and have moved on to big and better things. These will always be evil in this world but with every dark path there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

 

Racial Diversity:

One of the most significant historical events in the United States is the Civil Rights Movement. The African American race fought for what they felt was rightfully theirs. The racist view in some people is quite offensive to society because it’s wrong to judge people based on their race or culture. Minority literature, such as Native Americans, African Americans, and Latin Americans, focuses not only on the experiences of individual authors and also on the experiences of the race as a whole. I feel that African Americans have had immense impact with assimilation, struggle, and differences from dominant culture.

The African American race explained by W.E.B Du Bois in “From The Souls of Black Folk” lives with “a veil” on lifestyle. The veil for African Americans represented their race or skin color, meaning that they let their race dominate how they perceived the world, especially when a situation were to occur in which they felt their rights were misinterpreted or abused. African Americans had to have a double-awareness because they had to be aware of themselves as Americans and as African Americans. W.E.B Du Bois felt that African Americans were striving for being “co-workers with Whites in the kingdom of culture,” signifying the importance of being accepted, recognized, and treated equally in life.

By emphasizing the pride and power “of the gallant South,” then creating the horrifying lynching imagery, the author in “Strange Fruit” constructed an incisive contrast to express her disgust in the atrocities that was happening to Blacks. It also seem that the author was hinting that the South is abusing their power through metaphorically comparing its strength to the forces of nature, saying “For the rain to gather, wind to suck, [and] sun to rot.” Even though this poem showcases the evil side of America, it strongly affected many people at that time to take immediate action instead of allowing the idea of racism to perpetuate in our world. Anthologized racism literature has shown how far we have come as a nation, and everyone should be informed about this topic to stop it from ever surfacing again.

Unfortunately, racism has hardly evolved throughout the years but has probably have gotten worse because of the technology. Even though the tolerance level has increased, technology has elevated discrimination to a whole new level in the fact of bullying and hurt someone’s feelings. Social networking in the twenty-first century has created a new way to spread gossip, expose all their personal information, and humiliate them in front of their friends. This topic will never permanently vanish, but hopefully we are heading in the right direction to better humanity.