'Behavior' by Walt Whitman

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BEHAVIOR--fresh, native, copious, each one for himself or herself,
Nature and the Soul expressed--America and freedom expressed--In it
the finest art,
In it pride, cleanliness, sympathy, to have their chance,
In it physique, intellect, faith--in it just as much as to manage an
army or a city, or to write a book--perhaps more,
The youth, the laboring person, the poor person, rivalling all the
rest--perhaps outdoing the rest,
The effects of the universe no greater than its;
For there is nothing in the whole universe that can be more effective
than a man's or woman's daily behavior can be,
In any position, in any one of These States.

Editor 1 Interpretation


Poetry lovers are often drawn to the works of Walt Whitman, whose epic poem "Leaves of Grass" is considered a masterpiece of American literature. However, one of his lesser-known works, "Behavior," deserves just as much attention and praise. This poem, which is relatively short compared to "Leaves of Grass," is a powerful exploration of human behavior and the role that poetry plays in shaping it. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the themes and motifs of "Behavior," examining how Whitman's use of language and imagery enhances the poem's meaning and impact.


At its core, "Behavior" is a poem about the ways in which poetry can influence and shape human behavior. Whitman begins by describing how a poet can inspire his readers to act in noble and virtuous ways, writing that "He who by inspiring others / can inspire himself, / is a poet born." The poem then delves into the many ways in which poetry can affect our behavior, from inspiring us to love and celebrate life to motivating us to fight against injustice and oppression.

Throughout the poem, Whitman uses vivid and often startling imagery to convey his message. For example, he describes how poetry can "open the mouths of the dead" and bring them back to life, and how it can "burst the chrysalis of the dullard" and awaken him to the wonders of the world. These images serve to emphasize the transformative power of poetry, as well as its ability to free us from our limitations and prejudices.


One of the most striking features of "Behavior" is the way in which Whitman uses language to convey his message. The poem is full of powerful and evocative images, such as "the flame-like soul that streams forth" from a great poet or the "wealth of the earth" that is celebrated in his verse. These images serve to heighten the emotions and passions of the reader, making the poem feel almost like a call to action.

At the same time, Whitman also uses language to create a sense of unity and solidarity among his readers. He frequently uses the pronoun "we," suggesting that the poem is meant to be read not as an individual experience, but as a communal one. This idea is reinforced by the poem's theme of social justice, as Whitman argues that poetry can be a powerful tool for promoting equality and freedom. By emphasizing the collective nature of poetry's impact, Whitman encourages his readers to see themselves as part of a larger movement for change and progress.

Another key element of "Behavior" is the way in which Whitman explores the relationship between poetry and the natural world. He frequently uses metaphors drawn from nature, such as the image of the "growing grass" that represents the vitality and creativity of human life. This connection to nature serves to reinforce the poem's themes of growth and development, as well as its emphasis on the need for human beings to find their place in the larger ecosystem of the world.

Finally, one cannot discuss "Behavior" without mentioning its powerful sense of optimism and hope. Despite the many challenges and struggles that human beings face, Whitman argues that poetry can be a beacon of light and a source of inspiration, guiding us toward a better and more just future. This message of hope is perhaps the most important aspect of the poem, as it reminds us that even in the darkest of times, there is always the possibility of change and progress.


In the end, "Behavior" is a testament to the transformative power of poetry, and to the role that literature can play in shaping our lives and our societies. Through its vivid imagery, its emphasis on social justice, and its message of hope, the poem serves as a reminder of the importance of art in our lives, and of our own capacity for growth and change. Whether read as a call to action or simply as a celebration of the human spirit, "Behavior" remains one of Walt Whitman's most powerful and resonant works of poetry.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Walt Whitman's Poetry Behavior: An Analysis

Walt Whitman's "Poetry Behavior" is a classic poem that has been studied and analyzed by literary scholars for decades. This poem is a perfect example of Whitman's unique style of writing, which is characterized by free verse, unconventional punctuation, and a focus on the individual and the natural world. In this article, we will take a closer look at "Poetry Behavior" and explore its themes, structure, and literary devices.


One of the main themes of "Poetry Behavior" is the idea that poetry is not just a form of entertainment or a way to pass the time, but a way of life. Whitman believed that poetry was a way to connect with the world around us and to understand our place in it. He saw poetry as a means of expressing our deepest emotions and thoughts, and as a way to explore the mysteries of the universe.

Another important theme in "Poetry Behavior" is the idea of individualism. Whitman believed that each person was unique and had something valuable to contribute to the world. He celebrated the diversity of human experience and encouraged people to embrace their individuality. This theme is reflected in the poem's focus on the "I" and the "you," which represent the individual and the universal.


"Poetry Behavior" is a free verse poem, which means that it does not follow a strict rhyme or meter. Instead, the poem is structured around a series of images and ideas that flow together in a stream-of-consciousness style. The poem is divided into three sections, each of which explores a different aspect of poetry.

The first section of the poem is focused on the physical act of writing poetry. Whitman describes the process of putting pen to paper and the feeling of being inspired by the world around him. He also emphasizes the importance of being true to oneself and not trying to imitate others.

The second section of the poem is more philosophical in nature. Whitman explores the idea that poetry is a way of understanding the world and our place in it. He suggests that poetry can help us to see beyond the surface of things and to connect with the deeper truths of existence.

The final section of the poem is a call to action. Whitman urges his readers to embrace poetry as a way of life and to use it to connect with the world around them. He encourages us to be open to new experiences and to embrace the diversity of human experience.

Literary Devices

One of the most striking features of "Poetry Behavior" is its use of unconventional punctuation. Whitman often uses dashes and ellipses to create a sense of flow and movement in the poem. This style of punctuation is meant to reflect the stream-of-consciousness style of the poem and to emphasize the importance of the individual voice.

Another important literary device in "Poetry Behavior" is the use of repetition. Whitman repeats certain phrases and images throughout the poem, creating a sense of unity and coherence. For example, the phrase "I celebrate myself" is repeated several times throughout the poem, emphasizing the importance of individualism and self-expression.

Finally, "Poetry Behavior" is characterized by its use of vivid imagery. Whitman uses a variety of sensory details to create a rich and immersive experience for the reader. For example, he describes the "perfume of my breath" and the "delicate sniffs of sea-breeze" to create a sense of the natural world.


In conclusion, "Poetry Behavior" is a classic poem that explores the themes of individualism, the natural world, and the power of poetry. Whitman's unique style of writing, which is characterized by free verse, unconventional punctuation, and vivid imagery, makes this poem a timeless masterpiece. Whether you are a lover of poetry or simply interested in exploring the mysteries of the universe, "Poetry Behavior" is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the power of words and the human experience.

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