” . . . and I now resolved that, however long I might remain a slave in form, the day had passed forever when I could be a slave in fact.”

I think that the distinction that Douglass is trying to make here is that he is physically forced to be a slave, however, he does not feel or act like a slave himself. He chooses to be something other than a slave, although he is not technically free. We see this in the rest of the narrative when he teaches himself to read and write, tricking the neighborhood boys into teaching him writing skills, and later when he teaches other slaves to read as well, and of course when he finally escapes from slavery. There are also times when Douglass talks about stressing his opinions about slavery onto the other slaves, so that they all understand the inhumanity of slavery and he also talks about always thinking about what his next escape would be. In this narrative, we can see many times where Douglass is working as a slave, but he does not necessarily act how a slave was trained to behave, therefore he could never “be a slave in fact”.

The “Barbaric Yawp”

Walt Whitman’s use of the word “barbaric yawp” is meant to be unusual I think. When I think of the word “barbaric yawp” I think of something unnatural, like a scream that releases power and intense energy from a person, while feeling very animalistic. I think overall this word is meant to keep with the theme of this poem that it is supposed to be shocking. A ‘yawp’ is a kind of yell that is supposed to get our attention and I think that the poem reflects the qualities of the word “yawp”. I think that this word helps us understand that this poem is not supposed to be tame, it is supposed to be wild and reckless, while shocking its readers all at the same time. I would consider “The Fall of the House of Usher” to be like Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” because many of the things in that story are meant to feel unnatural and shocking to its audience, similar to what Whitman was accomplishing with his poem.

“I am the poet of commonsense and of the demonstrable and of immortality; And am not the poet of goodness only . . . . I do not decline to be the poet of wickedness also.”

Walt Whitman’s poem song of my self has many interesting aspects. However, i found this line to be particularly interesting because he talks about how his poem is not meant to be about goodness and good things, but rather it is a poem about sensibility and immorality. I found this to be interesting because he seems to say that wickedness and immortality go hand in hand with commonsense. Whitman also says in his poem “Evil propels me, and reform of evil propels me . . . . I stand indifferent“. I also found this interesting how he feels indifferent about these things. He seems to care more about common sense and being logical rather than choosing a side between good and bad.

“On the other part, instead of being its own seer, let it receive from another mind its truth, though it were in torrents of light, without periods of solitude, inquest, and self-recovery, and a fatal disservice is done.”

From what I understand of this quote is that Emerson is referring to man’s soul and that the soul needs help from its person to discover truth. This sentence confuses me because I do not understand if Emerson is referring to a person’s soul, or if he is referring to how a man should treat his soul, or if it is about a person’s behavior toward finding truth. If he means that you should give yourself “periods of solitude, inquest, and self-recovery”, or rather you should give these things to your soul. And if you should give these things to your soul, how should a person go about that? How does a person give their souls these things? How do you assist a soul in finding truth? I think that the idea behind this is that a person’s soul is the thing that seeks truth, but I think that Emerson is trying to tell us that a person’s soul cannot find truth without its person helping and encouraging a soul and Emerson tells us to do this with “solitude, inquest, and self-recovery”. I think that the most frustrating thing is that this sentence makes my mind go back and forth between the idea that your soul seeks truth, and the idea that a person can’t seek truth without helping ones soul.


Hey, I’m Eleanor Jones. I am 19 years old and this is my second year at SFSU. I was born in Singapore and have lived in England, but I have spent most of my life growing up in Southern California and now I go to school here at SF state. I am undeclared and trying different classes such as American Literature to figure out what I want to do with my major. I am excited for this semester and I think this will be a fun class!