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Walt Whitman, half-length portrait, seated, facing left, wearing hat and sweater, holding butterfly

[Detail] Walt Whitman holding butterfly

The Individual

While Emerson wrote Self Reliance and Thoreau encouraged people to step to the music of a different drummer, Whitman pondered "Why can we not see (a) being who by manliness and transparence of nature disarm(s) the entire world, and brings one and all to his side, as friends and believers?" Students can read the rest of this musing on pages 61-62 of Notebook #80. Have students compare Whitman's ideas about the individual with those of his contemporaries. Ask them why this interest in the individual existed as it did in the nineteenth century.

Celebration of the common man has often gone hand in hand with celebration of the individual. Students can explore this theme in Whitman's writings on page 65 of Notebook #80. Students can also consider Whitman's notes on the Civil War, eespecially its soldiers, in light of the theme of the individual.