“I Hear America Singing” by Walt Whitman is a whimsical poem. It celebrates the freedom people enjoy in America. American Dream has been the subject of many literary as well as non-literary writings. Still, the question, why does Walt Whitman use the word singing in the title “I Hear America Singing” needs a deep insight into the poem. So let’s briefly analyze the poem to understand the writer’s intention using the word “singing.”
“I Hear America Singing” – Analysis
The poem, “I hear America Singing” begins with a joyous and hopeful tone. The writer presents the idealized version of America, where everyone celebrates a happy and content life from city to country. Written on the eve of civil war, the writer presents America as a harmonious country that provides everyone a chance to sing proudly and powerfully. The writer finds no discrimination as he gives us a list of people sharing different professions. He gladly states how everyone sings his loud tuneful song without fear and fright. Providing a list of places and occupations, the writer captures a portrait of America as a place where anyone can find joy, fulfillment, honest labor, and productivity.
Also, he states how each worker enjoys dignity and pride in his own way. It also highlights how these various carols are incorporated to form the song of America itself. The speaker’s list of jobs includes men and acknowledges the struggle of women and how they significantly contribute to American society. Thus, in the speaker’s vision of America, everyone gets to participate in shaping America’s song regardless of their class, gender, and location.
“Singing”, As a Metaphor
Walt Whitman has used “singing” as an extended metaphor in this poem to show the crux of American society. By providing glimpses of various professions, self-sufficiency, and individualism, the writer invites us to infer the true colors of American society. To him, all these songs form the fabric of his land. Moreover, the depiction of ordinary people implies that you don’t need to be a hero, a wealthy aristocrat, and a beautiful dismal to live a remarkable life. Instead, you can make your life unique while being your own self. The “singing” also signifies that Americans derive a strong sense of dignity and pride from their honest work and productivity.
“Singing” As a Symbol
The poem emphasizes the strength of the songs people proudly sing and the voices. Note that Walt Whitman talks about people involved in manual labor; he has excluded various professions in this poem. This is just because the labor force engaged in manual work is more likely to sing as they work. They do not sing to pass their time. Instead, they sing to let the world know how happy they are despite being ordinary workers. Therefore, “singing” is a symbol of joy, hope and freedom.
Thus, the poem’s title is highly symbolic; the writer uses the word “singing” throughout the poem to show the real face of America to the world. The repetition of the word highlights that America belongs to everyone. His country owes its citizens and allows them to live by exercising their free will. Even though each worker sings their carol but the act of singing is universal, and all workers share the same American identity.