“Song of Myself” by Walt Whitman and “The One Girl at The Boys Party” by Sharon Olds are two poems with similarities and differences. These two poems have a common theme of the human body. “The One Girl at The Boys Party” deals with a process of an adolescent girl, developing from childhood to puberty. Arithmetic is used as a metaphor to elaborate on the changes of the girl undergoes (Kirszner and Stephen 3). At first, the girl does not accept the changes taking place in her. The poet initially describes a process where thee girl is taken to a swimming party and was made to sit down. This confirms that she is a young girl undergoing mentorship with regard to her behavior now that she has started maturity. The poet states that the girl’s math performance is seen to be unfolding. Like most adolescents, this girl is timid and anxious about her body changes.
Section eleven of Whitman’s poem, exhibits its depictions of a maturing female body and its capability towards intimacy. The poem depicts male characters bathing and swimming in a nearby river. The protagonist, a woman, is hiding and watching the men as they swim and bath. She wishes she could join but it is not possible. In fact, she knows when discovered, the men would shy off and walk away. The protagonist then starts to fantasize being caressed by the men and instinctively she starts to touch her body. Whitman has stated, “copulation is no more rank to me than death is” (Bloom 34). This is the nature of taking pleasure in a body’s capabilities; during physical contact, spiritual togetherness is noted. These two poems use the body as an object of development hence revealing the intended themes. Many poets have used the human body as a significant tool in their works.
These two poems note similarities in terms of setting and message, rhythm and repetition. The repetitive element infuses a level of interest and emphasis within the intended message. Repetition and rhythm also assist in imparting an elegiac tone within the poems. The given tone is very helpful within the poems as it allows the writer to develop various emotions relevant to different settings and contexts. Owing to the repetitive nature of the poems, diction notes high similarities in terms of word usage. Whitman gives an example in the poem “Song of Myself,” using a repetitive form of short word combination like, “O Captain! My Captain!” (Kummings 9). The other important feature is the use of short lines in both poems towards helping the reader in understanding the message faster. Note that, the use of poetry allows the writers in complying with other rules of poetry.
There is a notable similarity in the setting of the two poems. Both have male and female characters, there is presence of water and symbolic use of the number eight. In Old’s poem, as the title suggests, characters used include a girl and several boys. The setting is largely within a swimming party, evidencing the presence of water and youthful activities. The girl is described to be young and developing therefore, she is likely to be between the ages of eight to thirteen. The woman in Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song to Myself,” is twenty-eight years old. It is also revealed that the bathing men are eight in number yet the woman is very willing to share a bath with them. The presence of water is represented by the river.
There are also notable differences in the two poems, as initially noted in character diversity. Each poem has different set of players as evidenced by their complexities. The poem “Song by Myself” has nine characters; a middle-aged woman of twenty-eight years and eight men. The poem by Sharon Old, “One Girl at the Boys’ Party,” has various characters, young in age. The main character is the girl an adolescent probably between eight to thirteen years. The other boys are also of a young age that is why they are being referred to as “boys.”
“Song of Myself” has different themes whereas “One Girl at the Boy’s Party,” bears only one theme. The former has diverse themes because it is longer and involves well-developed characters. For example, it offers hints concerning democracy, politics, nature and other natural elements. Sharon Old’s poem only evidences sexuality as the major theme with few minor themes noted as changes and denial. The poem is very short and less complex as opposed to Whitman’s poem.
The two poems differ in the messages relayed by the major themes. For example, “Song by Myself” has a major theme of Eros or sexual feeling. The woman longs to have intimacy with one of the bathing men. This feeling is made intense by the nudity aspect. In the poem “One girl at the Boys’ Party,” the major theme is human sexuality concerning the development of the overall human body relating to mental, physical and sexual wellbeing (Kummings 39). The young protagonist is shy due the maturity onset yet the woman in the other poem is mature and sexually active that is why she longs to be intimate with a man. These two women depict different stages of life, evidencing female development processes (Kirszner and Stephen 19).
Whitman’s poem has the anaphora feature that lacks in Old’s poem. The feature is noted in the beginning of the poem’s beginning using same words or phrases. For instance, the first four lines of a stanza begin with the word “when.” Anaphora and rhythm go hand in hand in creating an interesting flow within the poem and assists in maintaining the audience’s attention. The two features are important in the publication because it creates interest and enhances with the poem’s message (Bloom 65).
Sharon Old’s poem on the other hand has the element of juxtaposition. It is depicted also in the poem’s beginning. When the protagonist’s mother says she will take her to the swimming party while it is meant for the young, it acts as juxtaposition. The line that quotes tower and bristle means there is something unpleasant happening among the boys. The girl is described as smooth and sleek; a literally device called alliteration. The description of the boys suggests roughness and harshness while that of the girl suggests calmness and innocence. The purpose of alliteration is the impartation of diction and a smooth flow of syllables within the poem (Kirszner and Stephen 57).
Bloom, Harold. Walt Whitman. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2006. Print.
Kirszner, Laurie, and Stephen Mandell. Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. New York: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2006. Print.
Kummings, Donald. Companion to Walt Whitman. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, 2009. Print.