I Hear America Singing Essay Example
I Hear America Singing Essay Example

I Hear America Singing Essay Example

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  • Pages: 7 (1831 words)
  • Published: June 28, 2018
  • Type: Essay
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I Hear America Singing SUMMARY In the poem "I Hear America Singing" by Walt Whitman, the reader envisions a country of people working for the greater good of mankind. These people come together as part of the whole society developing industry and production. Each person has a different occupation, but each job is important to the bigger picture. The bigger picture and theme being that of a country in which everyone is working together to create a successful and harmonious civilization. The mechanics keep the engines of the cars, boats, and machines in factories running operatively.

The mason, deckhand, shoemaker, hatter, woodcutter, and ploughboy each play a vital role in their occupation. Each person is important to society. Each person is needed for the various trades that make the country run smoothly. Without a skilled per


son in every job needed, the other fields may suffer. Whitman is expressing that each person is important. The verbs used in this poem are deliberate and indicates action, keeping the poem moving in such a pace that the reader is compelled to feel as if he or she is going through the workday with each laborer.

Verbs such as measures, makes, sits, stands, sewing, and washing invokes moving pictures of people performing their different jobs and each of the actions they take during their day. Phrases such as "blithe and strong," "delicious singing," and "strong, melodious songs" appeals to the imagination with the strength of men intermingled with the beauty of song. Whitman is articulating his view of America as a group of strong people, both men and women, yet both of these groups are beautiful for the work they perform.


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poem demonstrates typical Whitman techniques. Although there is no end rhyme, we hear a sense of melody in his chiming repetitions and a rhythm in the length of his lines that substitutes for the metrical pattern we expect in conventional poetry. Line one announces the main metaphor. Individual Americans doing their various jobs are a harmonious chorus of happy, proud, creative workers. The speaker hears the "singing" of mechanics, a carpenter, a mason, a boatman, a steamboat deckhand, a shoemaker, a maker of hats, a woodcutter, and a ploughboy.

Each tradesman or laborer performs his labor with the same pride and exultation that one might hear from a singer. In democratic America, the speaker seems to say, there is no gradation of importance attached to the jobs performed or the performers of those jobs. Whitman's attitude toward Americans is uplifting and positive. He exalts Americans and the hard labor they perform and sees it as a promising land where each person is unique, but united "Each singing what belongs to [her] and to none else" ( line 8). Whitman praises the work values and ethics of the American people.

He depicts a country of people who work hard, yet through the hard work, they enjoy the fruits of their labors "The day what belongs to the day At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly" ( line 9 ). When the title of the poem is first read, you imagine that America as a country is singing. But Whitman does not mean that at all. Beyond the literal, he means that all of the people of America working in their different occupations don't actually sing the

same song, but by coming together with their work, and working together for the whole of the country, these people are creating and developing the industry of America.

To Whitman, this is like everyone is singing together in a beautiful song. Whitman also uses nouns that denote labor and industry such as: mechanics, mason, work, deckhand, shoemaker, hatter, woodcutter, ploughboy, and mother. These words conjure images of the working class society. This is the majority of Americans. These people are the ones contributing to America with their productive labor. He concludes with mention of female voices. A mother performing her motherly duties is "singing" and the sound of her voice is "delicious. " The same goes for "the young wife at work, or . . the girl sewing or washing. " In the last two lines we hear the after-work or off-duty songs of a "party of young fellows, robust, friendly,/ Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs. " Whitman mentions no brilliant artists or corporate executives. The people in his poem are common folk without individual names, but in his celebratory verse they are all idealized. Each one finds joy in the dignity of his or her labor. In eleven lines of verse, the word "singing" appears eleven times, or twelve if you include the title.

The word is used figuratively to reflect happy pride in performance of labor. This is a poem that voices American democracy. Its language is muscular, its pulse vibrant, its mood exultant. We will hear similar tonalities and exuberance in the free verse of Carl Sandburg, who was 14 when Whitman died. Free verse is not just prose written with

irregular line endings. Free verse is poetry without regular patterns of rhyme, rhythm or meter. Note: free verse has rhythm and meter. The pattern, however, is irregular.

Rhythm is often created through the use of other poetic devices, including repetition, alliteration, and other sound devices. Although it is "free" of metrical restrictions, it is still patterned and unified by the conventional poetic devices of repetition, assonance, and alliteration. The article "the", ordinarily disregarded, begins seven of the eleven lines and establishes a pattern that is seen on the page and heard when the poem is given voice. Alliteration lends ear-pleasing melody in lines 4 and 5 with the "m's" of mason and makes, and the "b's" of boatman . . . belongs . . . oat. The assonance of "ing" sound in the repetitions of singing, sewing, and washing lend the sense of activity inherent in all present participles. In this poem, he explores repetition which creates a melody of its own. The word 'singing' appears in all but six lines. This word is very cheerful and light. It gives the reader a sense of happiness. It creates a refreshing mood as it quickly takes you through each setting. It is alive with visuals. It conjures up a small town in the reader's mind, giving him or her a taste of what daily life was like for specific trades and genders.

He takes the reader around this town to sample each song, but in the end they all melt together. "Sing with open mouths their strong melodious songs. " Whitman also creates a level of equality by describing each person singing their own song while doing daily

tasks. They may represent different social statuses, but the fact that they are all singing puts them on the same plane. These are tasks that could seem somewhat dull to an observer, but they are something cherished by those performing them. However, the first line prepares you to visualize the variety of songs.

Through "I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear" not only does one get the songs are all different, but the people who are singing them are different, too. America is known as the melting pot with a variety of nationalities and beliefs. In this poem, Whitman makes it seem blissful to have all the different songs and people in one place. America has always been created by its workers, by the little man, living the American dream. One portrayal, written in simplicity, is Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing". In simple, uncomplicated words, he ecords the voices of the people that create the chorus that is America's strength- the carpenter at work, the young mother... each one with their own song, adding their own, strong, voices to the whole that is America. Of all the "I Hear America Singing" literary terms, none makes its mark more strongly than synecdoche. "America" in line 1 represents individual Americans, more specifically, workers. Each line of the poem is an example of synecdoche (a special type of metaphor where the parts equal the whole or the whole equals the parts). Whitman is celebrating the greatness of America by celebration the greatness of its individuals.

The sounds and actions of laborers working is compared to music and are metaphors. It is notable that all the jobs described

by Whitman require physical effort. The poem is written in simple language and is about simple people. The democratic nature of Whitman's poetry is reflected by his subject matter. He celebrates mechanics, carpenters, masons, mothers--the type of people usually not discussed in poems. For Whitman, it is the individual who matters and the individual freedom that allows him to be great --"Each singing what belongs to her"--that matters.

It does not pause to consider greatness, just the strong, constant, chorus of life moving ever onwards. Each person, each capacity, has their own unique voice, they are not trying to sing in chorus, they are proclaiming their own great identity in the simple continuous song of their work. There is a subtlety that suggests that the song is not merely the actions of these simple people that create the chorus that is America, herself, singing, but the actual pleasure in listening to the folk who sing and hum as they labor.

In this, each individual is, in truth, adding to a chorus and harmony of life and creating the ambiance of the country as the individual voice combine to create the whole. The poem itself is based in simplicity. There are no complicating words or factors. It is short, simple, and strong, just as it describes the simple and strong voices of the workers and individuals that create the voice of America's 'song'. And behind it all, is the recognition of these individuals, so often ignored, not acknowledged for their great, daily, impact... or Walt Whitman proclaims 'I hear America sing' and, as he listens, we, too, can begin to hear their song. Theme: Whitman's poem celebrates the

individuals who make America great and the right to individual liberty that makes it possible. [pic] Walt Whitman I Hear America Singing I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear; Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong, The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work.

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck, The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands, The wood-cutter's song, the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown, The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing, Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else, The day what belongs to the day at night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

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