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Walt Whitman's Idea of Women - Essay Example

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(Assignment) Walt Whitman’s Idea of Women Introduction Walt Whitman, the famous 19th century American poet, essayist, and journalist was one among the prominent writers who marked the transition between transcendentalism and realism, and hence, his works tend to show the qualities of both…
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Walt Whitmans Idea of Women
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Download file to see previous pages A look into his works, that are, at times, vivid with sexuality, proves that his works are a mixture of transcendentalism and realism, where he found females equal to males, and in fact, more important than males. However, he himself seems highly influenced by the social and religious norms that surrounded him in the 19th century that he could not see any other role for women other than household works, procreation of healthy offspring for the state, and keeping themselves healthy and willing to overtly express their sexual desires. Moreover, in his attempt to show the importance of females, he ends up giving them more importance than males because of their higher role in reproduction. In my opinion, Whitman is one among the many sex radicals of the 19th century, and though he proposed revolutionary ideologies on free expression of female sexuality, they are clouded by his own expression of male dominance in his works. This makes his position as a feminist a matter of controversy. Traditional roles of women in Whitman’s works Killingsworth admits the fact that for many scholars, Whitman’s females are nothing more than ‘functional creatures’ with just muscles and wombs (1). In addition, there comes the allegation that their only functions are sex and birth. This allegation seems substantiated in many of his writings. In ‘A woman waits for me’, he points out “yet all were lacking…if the moisture of the right man were lacking” (A woman waits for me). Here, instead of the desire to reform female covert expression of sex, the main intention seems to be the desire to make them cope with the unquenched sexual desires of the male-dominated society. As one moves ahead, there is the evident expression of what a chauvinist prefers to see in the females with whom he wants to have sex. “They are tann’d in the face by shining suns and blowing winds/ Their flesh has the old divine suppleness and strength/ They know how to swim, row, ride, wrestle, shoot, run, strike, retreat, advance, resist, defend themselves.” However, for a woman who possesses all these qualities, the duty Whitman gives is “I shall demand perfect men and women out of my love spendings.” Thus, it becomes very evident that though he seems careful about the health and wellbeing of females, the two responsibilities they are supposed to do, according to him, are healthy procreation and healthy sex. However, this conception about his intentions is, to a great extent, removed when one looks into his Prose Writings (II, 37 2n). He points out that the sole way to a reconstructed society depends on “new birth, elevation, expansion, invigoration of women, affording, for races to come… a perfect motherhood” (qtd. Killingsworth, 3). Here, though his outlook is justified remarkably, it seems that his intention to elevate females is based on the need to ensure proper motherhood; not for females’ sake. However, a look into the Prose Works of 1892 reveals that his intention was not only to make females willing to procreate healthy generation, but the kind of women he envisioned would be “robust equals, workers, and even practical and political deciders with men” (Whitman, Prose Works). Thus, in the opinion of people ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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