If one looks to analyze the poems of “success” and “song of myself” one can discover why the author’s choose to write in their respective styles based on their personal experiences. Dickinson’s poem reflects a skeptical view of success; argues that once success is achieved, it is ultimately a disappointment. Growth is gained through the suffering one goes through in order to achieve success. This pessimistic view is probably the result of the tragic experiences late in her than caused her to harden emotionally such as the death of loved ones.
“The distant strains of triumph, Burst agonized and clear!” This means that she feels that triumph and success is so far away that it can never be reached showing her pessimism once again. Her diction is also demonstrates a negative manner through particular word choices that key the readers in to the tone of her poems. Words such as “forbidden” or “agonized” are examples of this type of diction. The main message behind her poem is that growth is not gained through success.
William Robert Sherwood says the lesson of the poem is that “God may wish to test our faith and fortitude through making us suffer, but we can use suffering to augment our most specifically human resource, the consciousness” (Lit Finder). What Dickinson is trying to emphasize is that one grows and learns through the hard work that is put forth when trying to reach success. One should, Dickinson claims, appreciate the growth and knowledge achieved through hard work because is they bank on appreciating success alone, they will end up disappointed. Whitman’s view of success is different from Dickinson’s. Whitman says that success is achieved when someone gives something toward a certain cause.
An example of this could be a soldier volunteering to serve his country in the army. Success is also something that is not equal as far as public opinion is concerned but is equal in theory. According to Whitman, success should be equally appreciated, from the famous faces to the unsung heroes. He even goes as far as to say that success is greater for those people who give toward a worthy cause and don’t receive overwhelming celebrity status because of it. This type of success shows that the person is giving toward a cause out of pure generosity and is not motivated by alternate motives such as search for popularity or fame. “Less unknown heroes equal to the greatest heroes known” (line 13 Song of Myself). This means true heroes are the ones that died and are not remembered as heroes.
This can be considered transcendental because he is praising the individual rather than just conforming to the popular opinion of society. The transcendental style is reflected throughout the poem. He has very long sentences that are Thoreau-like is the sense that one idea leads to another and so on. This style characteristic of Whitman shows why some people classify his work as transcendental. This transcendental style is most likely derived from the fact that he never really fit in with the norm of society and he was always looked at by people as being “odd.” This “odd” character trait which seemed to be a folly to the average Joe made Whitman one of the greatest writers in the history of American literature. One thing that the two poems have in common is that both writers stray away form the norms of society. Dickinson argues that success is not as great as society builds it up to be and Whitman goes against hailing the “heroes” as society tends to do and remembers even the unknown, unimportant people who are usually forgotten by society. The critical analysis behind these two poems is a direct reflection of who they are as individuals.
Surely, Dickinson and Whitman, by the way they use the language reveal something of their spirit, their habits, their capacities, and their bias. Given, that all of these are different, these differences are due to completely different lives. The contrast in style in “Success” and “Son of Myself,” reflect the differences in their personal experiences. Dickinson lived a simple and glum life while Whitman lived a very active and random life.
Therefore, it is no surprise when Dickinson writes using dashes and unconventional capitalism, and effective metaphors. Whitman uses free verse, bold diction, and detailed imagery. The differences in style that are shown in the two poems present directly evidence that their lifestyles were different. The reader can pick up on what the author was feeling while writing the poem by the structure, diction, and the topic. These are different for both authors. In conclusion, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman’s “selves” are shown to be polar opposites through the style, structure, diction, and mood of their poems.