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Throughout the history of literature, each individual writer has their own unique style that is distinguishes them from the rest. A writer’s style is the kind of writing, the tools of language, and the manner in which their work is organized. It is shaped through the particular events they have and the mistakes the have made along the way that have helped them to grow as individuals. Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson each have a distinctive style that has grown, developed, and changed as a result of their different experiences. The contrast in style between “Success” and “Song of Myself” reflect the differences in their personal experiences: Dickinson’s style, which consisted of extensive use of dashes and unconventional capitalism, and effective metaphors emphasizes the magnitude of emotion which resulted from tragic events late in her life; whereas, Whitman’s free verse, bold diction, and detailed imagery reflected the transcendental ideals resulted from his strong drive and belief in individualism.

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For two people living in the same period of time, Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were polar opposites. Emily Dickinson was born into a privileged society. She never had to fend for herself and was sent to private schooling. She was a very reclusive persona nd put herself into a self-imposed “social seclusion.” She lived with heer parents for her whole life and took care of her mother. She wrote up to 1,800 poems in her lifetime but never published during her lifetime.

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She observed people and had many intimate relationships with people through her letters, whom she rarely, if ever, met. Walt Whitman on the other hand was born into a poor family who could not afford to send him to school. At eleven years old he entered the work force at the newspaper, The Patriot. He was a very charming person who moved around often and had a large string of jobs at newspapers. In his free time he wrote his most famous book, “leaves of Grass.”

He never married and headed south during the war to help with the effort. He received recognition from Emerson, Thoreau, and Bronson Alcott. Although they both were born into large families and remained single their whole lives, their paths were very different. Dickinson was born into riches while Whitman had to fight for his place in the world. Whitman made his works public and received recognition for them while he was alive while Dickinson chose to keep hers hidden and actually intended to burn them. Dickinson was very private while Whitman was very public. Dickinson was absorbed in death and gloom, while Whitman’s life was generally happy and jubilant. It makes sense that these two would write about different things and in different styles, because their lives were very unalike.

Each writer’s personal style was noticeably affected by events that occurred throughout their life. Dickinson’s early work was very conventional and sentimental; she was young and had not had as many tragic events that would eventually grow to shape her writing style, her use of dashes and capitalism showed how the distressing events troubled her by showing how distracted and cluttered her mind was becoming. She showed this in her poem Success when she said “As he defeated-dying- On whose forbidden ear. . .” Dickinson puts dashes in the place of the word “and” to emphasize the importance of the words and how they are closely linked. Dickinson thought that death was closely linked to her and she seemed to think that death was following her. Dickinson had many people who were close to her die in her life and she escaped the misery she felt for her friends and family through her poems.

Whitman is the first person recognized as a free verse writer, his transcendentalist ideas which grew from his work as a volunteer nurse in the army that shaped the belief that all men, no matter how insignificant, are equal and deserve to be recognized as heroes. Whitman has a very casual style of writing; he shows this in an excerpt from Song of Myself when he says “Have you heard that it was good to gain the day? I also say it is good to fall….battles are lost in the same spirit in which they are won.” This asks the reader questions and then gives Whitman’s opinion very directly; he even talks to the reader directly when he says “you” which shows how relaxed he really is.

He recognized that the victors of a battle are just as important as the conquered and emphasizes this through his calm, relaxed style which did not have much format and never rhymed, which showed how it doesn’t matter what the end result is. Both of these writer’s lives and styles were changed through death, while Dickinson’s was the death of people close to her Whitman’s was through people who he was trying to save on battlefields. Death may have effected both but the way that they were effected was greatly different, Whitman embraced death and emphasized how even the dead have great importance and Dickinson had become deeply distraught by it.

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Kylie Garcia

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