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  1. #1
    beeja is offline Member
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    Default I am large. I contain multitudes!

    Hi,

    Pls explain the Walt Whitman's words for me. Very confused.

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well, then, I contradict myself;
    (I am large—I contain multitudes.)


    Q1: What does he exactly mean?

    Well, pls read the following text.

    Our circumstances are us

    "Circumstances do not make a person, they reveal him" This seems an exceedingly heartless comment, a justification for neglect of those in need, and a rationalization of exploitation and abuse, of the superiority of those at the top of the pile and the inferiority to those at the bottom.


    Q2: The word "of the superiority of those at the top of the pile and the inferiority to those at the bottom" is a phrase to modify the "a rationalization of exploitation and abuse" or it is "a rationalization of the superiority of those at the top of the pile" and" a rationalization of the inferiority to those at the bottom"?

    Q3: Can you explain me the whole paragraph in easier way?

    Q4: Do you think the title "Our circumstances are us" contradicts its context?

    Thanks! :)

  2. #2
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    1- He means that he is full to bursting with different characteristics, like a crowd.

    2- It sounds l;ike a rationalising of those at the toop as it gives them the security to look down.

    3- I'd say Our coicumstances make us

  3. #3
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    R1: You have several facets and points of view.
    R2: With the comma, I would say it's "a rationalization of the superiority"
    R3: The implication that circumstances reveal a person is that if the person is in difficulty, it's his fault b/c he can't cope with the situation. This type of thinking is just an excuse for people who don't care about those in need. They try to find a logical reasoning so that they don't have bad conscience for their cynicism, and in the same time this gives them some "ego boost" as they think "I'm not one of them, I'm superior".

    R4: Well, that's the idea that is discussed and attacked in the paragraph.

    FRC

  4. #4
    beeja is offline Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tdol
    1- He means that he is full to bursting with different characteristics, like a crowd.
    Tks Tdol, but I still didn't get it. What does the "large" here mean? Can we say that "I contradict myself. I am great but I still have many ordinary things like other people.



    Oh, I quoted this part of the poem (Song of Myself) for your review.

    51
    The past and present wilt - I have fill'd them, emptied them.
    And proceed to fill my next fold of the future.

    Listener up there! what have you to confide to me?
    Look in my face while I snuff the sidle of evening,
    (Talk honestly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute
    longer.)

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself,
    (I am large, I contain multitudes.)


    I concentrate toward them that are nigh, I wait on the door-slab.

    Who has done his day's work? who will soonest be through with his
    supper?
    Who wishes to walk with me?

    Will you speak before I am gone? will you prove already too late?

    by walt whitman

  5. #5
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    Default Re: I am large. I contain multitudes!

    Quote Originally Posted by beeja
    Q1: What does Walt Whitman mean exactly?

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well, then, I contradict myself;
    (I am large—I contain multitudes.)
    I am complex—I contain multitudes of meaning.

    Nothing (a poem, a piece of art, Nature, a human being) has a single, set, meaning. We can't fit the pieces together and go "Ah-ha! I understand now!" Where a tension of opposites (i.e., contradition) exists we identify, initially, with one side, then after learning or experiencing more, we identify with the other side, until there comes a point in time when we begin to identify with both sides, wherein lies the contradiction; But, that's a good thing, not a bad thing. The process itself leaves us with a bigger picture of the world (We are large)—We know now that there is never really only one answer, one truth, one meaning (We contain multitudes of meaning). :wink:

    Q2: The words "of the superiority of those at the top of the pile and the inferiority to those at the bottom" is a phrase to modify the "a rationalization of exploitation and abuse" or it is "a rationalization of the superiority of those at the top of the pile" and" a rationalization of the inferiority to those at the bottom"?
    ...a rationalization of exploitation and abuse of those at the top of the pile to those at the bottom. (i.e., you are the way you are because you lack/have the skills, knowledge, and whathaveyou to meet the challenge.)

    Q3: Can you explain the whole paragraph in an easier way?

    Our circumstances are us
    "Circumstances do not make a person, they reveal him" This seems an exceedingly heartless comment, a justification for neglect of those in need, and a rationalization of exploitation and abuse, of the superiority of those at the top of the pile and the inferiority to those at the bottom.
    The comment "Circumstances do not make a person, they reveal him" stems from a lack of compassion when it's used to justify why we shouldn't have to think about, care about or even help out people in need or people who are less fortunate (i.e., don't help or feel sorry for those people; They got themselves into that situation/circumstance, so they should get themselves out of the situation). Even worse, it's also used as a way of making sense out of why it's OK to exploit and abuse said people (e.g., Mr X works for a company that exploits him; he talks to the boss about the situation and he's given two choices: (1) he could quit (but given the economic climate he probably won't find another job) or (2) he could stay at the present company, continue to be exploited and just hope for the best (i.e., Circumstances do not make a person, they reveal him"). His circumstances make it so that he feels he doesn't have a choice.

    Q4: Do you think the title "Our circumstances are us" contradicts its context?
    Not in the least. Generally speaking, we tend to identify with (i.e., are compassionate towards) people who are like us, so in that respect "Our circumstances are us".

    All the best, :D

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