“…and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact”

By this quote, Frederick Douglass reveals that ones state of mind determines who they are and not their physical condition.  If one submits themselves into the physical condition, for example if they accept and consider themselves as a slave then they will remain a slave forever and in fact have imprisoned themselves in that state.  What Douglass is saying is that if one does not accept their physical condition and keeps their individuality and self sacred then they are not restrained to their physical condition and do have hope for freedom.  Frederick Douglass uses his physical condition as a for of camouflage of his true slef and intellect in order to manipulate those who are ignorant of reality so that he may gain more knowledge.  With greater knowledge he holds greater power and chance for freedom from slavery.


“I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.”

This quote brings to life the animalistic nature of Whitman and his intention for this poem.  Throughout the poem he speaks of actions, feelings, surroundings in a very raw and crude manner.  There is no such things as being civilized in Whitman’s world for he sees the world and people as one.  Being civilized is the most extreme opposite of what Whitman is and desires and portrays in “Song of Myself.”  The “barbaric yawp” is his sound of tribute to his return to nature.  It is not a man made sound but an organic release of his existence within nature as an animal and not a superficial and separated being.  This is a sound of his initiation of himself to nature: he does not speak but yawps therefore Whitman makes it known that he is not a human but returns himself into his raw form as an animal coming back to his rightful home.


“Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.”

This line stands out to me because it’s words are so very nice.  In this line Whitman expresses appreciation and purity of himslef as well as everything in the world.  The selflessness is inspiring.  He not only states that his soul is sweet and clear, or the soul is sweet and clear, but that everything that is and is not his soul is sweet and clear.  He includes everything, grass, air, a bird etc.  He considers things that are considered simple and not sacred and of less value to hold as much significance as a soul.


“Brave; for fear is a thing, which a scholar by his very function puts behind him. Fear always springs from ignorance.”

This quote was confusing to me because I did not understand how and why Emerson thinks that fear comes from ignorance.  Is it true that if one is afraid they are ignorant?  What are they ignorant of?  This very confusing to me.  I guess if one is a scholar, what frees them of ignorance and fear?  Is it because they might look upon situations differently than others or are they more like observers and critical thinkers instead of accepters of what is put in front of them, which can cause fear?  Reading on, Emerson speaks of one must face their fears head on and then they will “See it to be a lie, and you have already dealt it its mortal blow.”  But are there not things that people are afraid of not because they are ignorant but because they care about those things such as losing a loved one?  Is this also sprung from ignorance?  Is being sensitive or caring for a loved one a weakness?  Emerson makes a scholar sound so mighty and tough, almost emotionless.  I could understand that maybe Emerson is trying to say that a scholar, one who looks at situations from a critical and observational view, trying to understand the nature of the situation instead of being subordinate to its action is a like a thinking man.  But does this perspective make one brave or does it make one curious and understanding?  I do not agree with Emerson that fear comes from ignorance because fear is a natural instinct and a reaction to not only unfamiliarity but to also danger therefore sometimes through fear one finds a way to survive.  If you are brave to stand up to anything and get killed, what have you really achieved?  Maybe there is a limit to bravery and when cross may actually be considered as stupidity.



Hello 🙂

I’m Elina: currently a Junior at SFSU studying Literature and Business administration.  I have lived in the U.S. since 1996.  I speak 3 languages: Russian, Armenian and the obvious English.  Short intro 🙂