Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"I Sing the Body Electric," by Walt Whitman

-Brian Hanley

“I Sing the Body Electric,” is a poem written by Walt Whitman. The poem is a celebration of the human body. It breaks away from the Christian notion of dualism where the body and soul are separate and the body is the source of corruption for the mind. In his work Whitman celebrates the very essence of bodily flesh and declares its beauty. This poem is a response to those who doubt the body. In the second section of the poem Whitman claims that the human body, female and male, is perfect. He expresses his sensual desire for the human body in this section. “I loosen myself, pass freely, am at the mother’s breast with the little child, Swim with the swimmers, wrestle with the wrestlers, march in line with the firemen.” Whitman in his poem is able to find a link between the body politic and the erotic body; “the man’s body is sacred and the woman’s body is sacred,” which means all bodies, everyone, is sacred, even the “dull-faced immigrants [who] just landed on the wharf.” Everyone has a place in the great democratic scheme.
Whitman’s poem is a justification for his own bodily yearnings. In his poem his does not overcome his sexual appetites but he legitimatizes them. Whitman says the body is electric and filled with energies and desires and they are a current of emotion and humanity that make up the body of the soul and the soul of the body, making them one.
Walt Whitman is exclaiming the harmony and perfection of the oneness of body and soul. The ending or climax of the poem is a listing of the wonders of the body, moving from top to bottom, head to toe and then inside and how they work. At the end he says the body and soul are one, or the body is soul actually.

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