Dickinson’s and Whitman’s Literary


Professor’s name



Dickinson’s and Whitman’s Literary Works’ Reflection of the Late Romantic Period


The Romantic Period was an intellectual movement characterizing various works of literature, music, architecture, criticism, and history emanating from the late 18th century to the mid 19th century. Romanticism was viewed as a rejection of the calm, order, balance, rationality, idealization typical of the Classic period. To some extent, romanticism was a reaction against 18th-century rationalism, enlightenment, and materialism in general. Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were both 19th-century poets who wrote poems mainly based on ideologies of immortality, death, and nature. Emily Dickinson is a renowned poet known for her unusual use of syntax and form; a signature that earned her the title ‘The poet of the paradox.” Although Dickinson wrote about 1800 poems in her lifetime, only a handful were published. Walt Whitman, born in 1819, sought to move from the usual literal tradition of the old world forging new and distinct literature. His style was mainly innovate-free and celebrated the American landscape in his verses. This essay speaks to how both Whitman’s and Dickinson’s works reflect the Late Romantic period in America. In both Walt Whitman’s and Emily Dickinson’s works, each author embodies the attitudes of Romanticism including a deep admiration of the beauty of nature, an understanding of the self, and increased examination of the moods, personality, and mental potentialities of their moods, and a special predilection for aspects seemed mysterious and weird

Deep Appreciation of the Beauties of Nature

Firstly, in their unique way, both Dickinson and Whitman speak to the late Romantic period by showing appreciation for nature’s beauty. In her poem Hope is the Thing with Feathers, she writes, “Hope is the thing with feathers. That perches the soul and sings the tune without words and never stops at all.” In this text, one sees Dickinson’s appreciation for nature because she uses a bird as a metaphor to pass on a message about hope. The bird sings non-stop and does not demand anything even during the direst situations. She refers to hope as the thing with feathers and as a bird living with the human soul. The fact that the bird sings come rain or sunshine, good and bad times, and through storm or gale points to the nature of human beings and their capacity (Folsom, 276). Additionally, in his poem Song of Myself, Whitman writes, “My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same.” This text points to the notion of heredity and its role in extending generations. The poem generally is a self-expression that explores communion possibilities between people. The speaker talks about how every atom of their blood was formed from air and soil which are two aspects of nature. The speaker also talks about how his parents were also born from the same soil and air as did their parents too. This shows the connectedness that exists between him and his predecessors. This is an aspect of nature and its beauty. The relevance of nature as explored by both Dickinson and Whitman is that it brings healing to the sorrows of people (Wright, 40). Particularly for the romantic period, nature was viewed to be a source of revelation by using simple language to shape nature and talk about God’s creation.

Understanding of the Self and Increased Examination of Human Personalities and Moods

Secondly, Dickinson and Whitman also examine the personalities, moods, and mental potentialities of human beings, an attitude that was common during the late Romantic period. In his poem, I Hear America Singing Whitman praises the many different people that are in his nation America. Whitman writes that he hears American singing with various carols and he mentions carpenters, mechanics, and mason as they are working, getting ready for work, or as they leave. This points to the individuality of all the workers who despite working differently are singing the same song. Masons, mechanics and carpenters singing together shows how individuality blends with collective bargaining, commonality, and personal expression (Herrmann, 34). Whitman jubilantly celebrates his country people with song and emphasizes the kind of song they sing and their voices pointing to their diverse personalities, moods, and mental potentialities. Furthermore, Dickinson also makes reference to the same in his poem If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking. Dickinson writes, “If I can ease one life the aching, or cool one pain, or help one fainting robin, Unto his nest again, I shall not live in pain.” This text is about the deeds that human beings do to ensure that the life of another person is not in vain. The speaker in this poem is saying that they would happily dedicate their lives to helping those suffering from heartbreak, despair, and deep sadness. The author examines the personality of human beings and their moods by showing that they care for other people that are around them. The author wishes they can be of help to a fainting bird in helping it get back to its nests. This speaks to the sensitive and vulnerable side of the speaker. In essence, both Dickinson and Whitman do a good job in examining the personalities of their human characters in both poems, an attitude that remains at the center of Romanticism.

A Special Predilection for Aspects Deemed Mysterious and Weird

Thirdly, both Dickinson and Whitman make reference to the predilection for weird and mysterious subjects which were common attitudes of the late Romantic period. Particularly, both poets address the topic of death in their works. In her poem “Because I could not stop for death,” Emily Dickinson talks about immortality and death. She writes, “Because I could not stop death, he kindly stopped for me, the carriage held but just ourselves and immortality.” Essentially, this text is interprets the mortal experience from the viewpoint of immortality. The speaker points to the timelessness of eternity using phrases such as immortality, mortality, and mortality (Hsu, 56). Similarly, Whitman also displays a liking for the weird by writing that, “Was it doubted that those who corrupt their own bodies conceal themselves? And if those who defile the living are as bad as they who defile the dead?” The text speaks to the components of the body including the body. Whitman opines that the body is nothing short of a miracle. It is wonderful beyond description and provides people with a unique identity connecting them to all other people that are alive. The text also raises the question of whether those that defile the living also defile the dead. Both authors touch on mysterious and weird topics that have to do with death, immortality, and the soul.


In closing, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitson explore the attitudes of the late romantic period of American in their literary works. They both touch on the topic of death, immortality, mortality, and the soul; topics that are deemed weird and mysterious in society. Additionally, they also demonstrate increased examination moods and personalities of human beings. In their own unique way, both authors also reference deep appreciation for nature in the poems. All these attitudes speak to the common characteristics that were distinct in the late Romantic period.

Works Cited

Folsom, Ed. “Walt Whitman: A Current Bibliography, Winter/Spring 2018.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 35.3 (2018): 276-287.

Herrmann, Steven. Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times. Fisher King Press, 2018.

Hsu, Li-Hsin. “The Romance of Transportation in Wordsworth, Emerson, De Quincey, and Dickinson.” Romanticism 25.1 (2019): 45-57.

Wright, Jaime. “Emily Dickinson: A poet at the limits.” Theology in Scotland 24.1 (2017): 35-50.