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Walt Whitman's I Hear America Singing: Summary & Analysis

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Walt Whitman hears America singing; do you? In this lesson, we'll summarize his classic poem published in 1860, where every man and woman has a voice that is unique, yet is part of the overall fabric of the country.

American Pride

If you were ever looking for a champion of American democracy, poet Walt Whitman might be your guy. Throughout his poetry, readers can glimpse the ideals of patriotism, American pride, and love of everything that makes the United States great. Whitman loved to write about the American landscape and be a cheerleader for every man and woman who plays a role in making America special.

It's no surprise then that I Hear America Singing is chockfull of imagery celebrating everyday Americans who make up the fabric of this country. And, there's nothing necessarily special about what they're doing. No one in Whitman's illustrations is making a ton of money or landing on the moon; rather, they're going about their regular daily business of contributing thoughtfully to society. It's like Whitman is saying, ''This is America. The day-to-day work and responsibilities build this great nation.''

Let's dive deeper into this joyful poem Whitman penned.

Summarizing I Hear America Singing

Whitman opens his poem by telling us he hears all of America singing, and that every person has his or her own song - much like every person has his or her own story to tell.

He discusses regular people going about their daily activities: mechanics and carpenters, a mason singing to and from work, and even members of a boat crew, varied as they are, going about their jobs and each belting out his own song.

Shoemakers, hatters, wood-cutters, and ploughboys all get a mention. They each bring different perspectives to their varying fields of work, whether it's the day's starting time or time to go home.

Even mothers and wives are recognized for the unique roles and responsibilities they have and the songs they carry with them as they go about caring for the home or engaging in the workplace.

The overarching idea of the poem is that each person has a role and a voice that belongs only to that person, but when added to the roles and voices of all other Americans, helps piece together the puzzle that is America.

All the singers, Whitman says, have a place - whether it's during the daytime or the night. The songs of the everyday American are loud, strong, and beautiful.

Whitman's Intent

By shining the spotlight on a bunch of different types of workers, Whitman is offering the idea that regardless of the role, we all have a place in the way America works. Whitman didn't write the poem just about carpenters or just about mothers. By incorporating people from all walks of life, he shows us that no matter what you do, you have an individual voice that contributes to the fabric of the country.

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