Whitman’s central idea in Song of Myself include the objective of the idea of the self. From the very beginning in sections 1-3 he provides the idea that the reader has an active participation in the poetic experience. Introduced into the ambience of the poem it must be something distinguishably alive and take its own flow. In today’s modern reading and literature we would say that the one who reads must have criteria, that reading is feeling and thinking. The book is only the record of an act of creation that in our hands must be transformed into a second act of creation by the force of our own spirit. From this thinking, we can see that Whitman has similar thoughts as Emerson.
Emerson in “The American Scholar” and in “Self-Reliance” explains that the individual must not always rely on the content from the books, but the ideas that are generated by the reader when experiencing the lecture. Whitman in Song of Myself , continues this by letting the reader have the freedom to take in what they want to learn as he continues the poem, although at the start he begins by saying “what I assume, you shall assume”, which we can observe a contradiction here. Towards the end, in section 51, Whitman asks the reader to create, to argue, to develop their own ideas when reading. The most powerful quote is when he says “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / I am large, I contain multitudes.”
Whitman is the very example of how he evolved himself and his individualistic ideas. For Whitman, as we have seen, he is evolving and expanding himself, and new experiences will always expand and defy what one believed earlier. Like I mentioned with the contradiction in the beginning of Song of Myself, he believed the readers should assume what he assumes, but later presets the idea of freedom of ideas and experiences. As he writes, he develops more his own ideas and thinking, and some previous ideas might have contradictions. The contradictions are opportunities that allows us to debate and defy what our older self was, and this is the idea of evolving as a thinker. We can also observe how Whitman fits the criteria of bringing his own ideas into writing although it can be filled with criticism from others. In this poem, the verse is free, without metrical rhyme, and it recalled the original structure of biblical texts, it is also filled with sex suggesting reading, and other complex ideas. Whitman created new writing and further developed new rising ideas that started to create the American identity and also American literature.