The Great Lawsuit by Margaret Fuller and The Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman Essay

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Updated: Dec 4th, 2019


Margaret Fuller and Walt Whitman stand out as two ancient literature goons who have done various works in literature and ones who appreciation for what they did. They feature some resemblances as well as contradictions in their works in the way they employs the different aspects of literature such as styles, settings, plots and even their themes.

Therefore, it is important to study deeper the literal works of the two in order to get clear similarities or differences if any in their works. The theme that this discussion will zero on is on the one’s self or rather individuality or the unit of self as it appears as a common theme in The Great Lawsuit by Margaret Fuller and The Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

The two writers have in depth touched on the theme of self in their works. It therefore provides a good point or basis of analyzing and comparing some commonness and contradictions that stand based on the theme.


Fuller has remained one of the well remembered writer who laid a foundation in the securing and elevating women in society. The culture and traditions that are in place has positioned women in some sort of slavery and demeanor. Through her book “The Great Lawsuits” she points out the disadvantages that women face when it comes to matters of legal due to cultural confinements.

For instance, she expresses in the book that women do not hold properties on equal grounds or terms as their male counterparts and incase their husbands pass away, they are allowed to inherit part of the property for instance a child but not everything (Fuller 1627). Therefore, the difference, which exists between the men and the women, is based on the self or rather the individuality of male in their thinking.

This belief by the male counterparts to have an upper hand in all sectors or areas in life is what dominates in her book. She is of the view that there is a greater need for such individuality, which is held by men to come to an end. This can only be witnessed by woman taking a role in educating and elevating their women counterparts so us they can be able to act independently, empowered and make decision solely as equals as their male counterparts does.

Therefore, the author throughout this theme clearly exposes the imbalance that society is undergoing. Likewise, Whitman’s preface to the 1855 edition, of Leaves of Grass has a greater part on the theme of individuality or self. Although the book has many categories of poems, most of the poems touch on this theme of individuality and self.

For instance, in the inscriptions, the poem “I hear America singing” the author, Whitman has in length elaborated on the theme of individuality. He hears the carols of all people singing, people who contribute to the culture and life of America. The voices or carols are sung by mechanics, masons, carpenters, shoemakers and all categories of people.

The singing by these various people expresses their happiness and joy illustrating a sense of individuality in terms of women and men as every person sings what belongs to her or him as opposed to any other person. There is therefore a sense of self and individualism in the way people behaves. Every person is trying to play his or her part solely in order to achieve satisfactions.

Therefore, the two authors’ take on this aspect of individualism is to greater level similar. They both have some commonness through how individuals navigate other ways to consider their own way or life without necessarily putting in minds the needs and desires of their colleagues.

For instance, Fuller’s theme of individuality shows clearly how women plot and should act in order to regain their position in society. It will take their own initiative to be where they want to be. If they do not cooperate towards one common goal they may continue to remain in their current positions, as their male counterparts continue to dominate and under regard them in the society.

On the other hand, Whitman’s theme on individuality is also clear as every individual is more concerned about his or her own interests in life and therefore does something that better interests him/her. Therefore, there is a good percentage of comparison between the works of these two authors.


There also exists some level of contrasts in the theme of self unit or individuality that the two authors portray. For instance, Fuller is more concerned about the future of the women. She is categorically concerned about the plight of the women and therefore agitates for their own liberations from slavery that has been imposed by the culture and the traditions which have over looked their rightful share in the day to day life.

Fuller sees self not necessarily as a divine being but she is optimistic that man and men and woman and women share some commonness and therefore there is need for both of them to have some equality in the way they relate, and in everything they do. The way the society has placed boundaries between them should not be tolerated but rather they need to be one in their soul and in whatever they does.

Opportunities should be availed to both of them as opposed to men only. Therefore, this is one of the contrasts that stand between her and Whitman’s poems in the Leaves of Grass who sees self as a composition of both spirit and physical. According to Whitman, self is about individual identity of a man, including his being and quality (Stacy 1850). These attributes are different from those of other people, which clearly illustrates that there is no way in which the self of one person may be similar to that of another person.

Therefore, by being self, a person will possess quality attributes that will not conform to other people’s beliefs. This contradicts with Fuller’s view of the same in her book, “The Great Lawsuits”. Furthermore, Whitman is of the view that self aspect of a person is just a portion or part of the divine soul of an individual. This is demonstrated through the way Whitman has referred in most of his work using “I”, which shows that though it is universal, it is part of the divine.

Fuller’s understanding of self solely was based on the sense of gender and the traditional meaning attributed to these two different sexes. She only postulated or affirms the important of a time when these discriminations based on the roles and gender will come to an end through embracing of oneness and avoiding selfness or rather selfishness.

She therefore wishes to see a country where by people will be united and embrace change in which both men and women will be allowed or availed to equal rights and freedom in the society.

The slavery and seclusions that are witnessed because of the traditional stereotypes should be brought to an end with people or society embracing new forms of viewing the aspect of self. On the other hand, Whitman sees self as an intrinsic part of human being and as something which is both physical and spiritual hence claiming that due to these differences, people have different selves and therefore not concerned about the person’s gender or role.


Form this discussion, it is evident that these two authors, Fuller and Whitman, have to some extend featured some similarities in their theme of self in their works. These perhaps can be explained because of their setting and the traditional at their time. Their society and the traditional, past information may have grounded them in thinking in this same line.

However, though their thinking did resemble, there is also instances where some differences elicited especially on the idea of self. For instance, Whitman is of the view that self is something that consist of spiritual and physical while Fuller mostly zeroes on the physical aspects of self or individuality.

The two authors play a great role in shaping the understanding of life and human aspects in the current world through their deeply thought out work. The society nowadays is able to relate positively with each other and embrace every other person’s efforts, complexities and perspective of opinions.

This understanding and the embracing of one another or rather the democracy being enjoyed today’s should be credited to these two writers. They are role models whose work deserves appreciation.

Works Cited

Fuller, Margaret. The Great Lawsuit. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2003. 1620-1654.

Stacy, Jason. Walt Whitman’s Multitudes: Labor Reform and Persona in Whitman’s Journalism and the First Leaves of Grass, 1840-1855. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2008.

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