“There Was a Child Went Forth” by Walt Whitman

April 3, 2008 by aaron

There Was a Child Went Forth” by Walt Whitman illustrates his position as part of the new American Tradition and his desire to fulfill the call for a poet who “sings the materials of America” by Emerson. The poem is earthy and real: the emotion, events and perceptions are that of the average person. The lofty ideas presented within are approachable because they are part of the every-man’s perception and life.

Walt Whitman’s language is loose yet precise, varied but common, and it illustrates a perfect balance between the real and the artistic. The structure flows coalesces and begins to flow again while all the while remains a simple list-like form.

However ,within this list, he pulls and plays with emotions and moves from excitement into doubt and then to resolution to rescind all doubts. Doubt begins as the child moves from the pleasant natural world into the human world he is subjected to. The ills of the drunkard, the boys and his father manipulate the child and pushes him beyond the comfortable bounds of childhood and nature and forces him to deal with the negative aspects of human existence: the child moves from the tactile understanding of reality into the doubt of the mind. The permanency of emotion and the place of the individual within the group.

Finally, the real world intrudes again and the child leaves the mental world and resolves to enter the real world experiences the world as it is without being subjected to the existential doubts that flooded his mind as the world intruded on his excitement.

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