'Breaking Bad' brings Walt Whitman back to the forefront of pop culture(Read article summary)
'Breaking Bad' includes lines in which characters quote passages from Whitman, and a copy of the writer's 'Leaves of Grass' was recently a pivotal plot point.
Characters sometimes quote Whitman in the dramatic series, which chronicles terminally ill teacher Walter White‚Äôs descent into evil when he decides to make and sell crystal meth to leave a nest egg for his family.
‚ÄúLeaves of Grass,‚ÄĚ Whitman‚Äôs most famous collection of poems, plays a pivotal role in a¬† recent episode when Walter‚Äôs brother-in-law Hank, a DEA agent, comes across a copy of Whitman‚Äôs poetry that incriminates Walter as a drug kingpin.
Kera Bolonik, writing recently at poetryfoundation.org, noted that at first glance, the pairing of the cosmically ebullient Whitman and the darkly mercenary Walter is an odd one, to say the least.
But Bolonik also pointed to some similarities between Whitman and Walter, mentioning that they‚Äôre both intellectual pioneers in their field, doing work that puts them at society‚Äôs margin, and they‚Äôre both obsessive perfectionists. You can read the full text of Bolonik‚Äôs splendid essay here.
One other parallel between the two is that Whitman, despite the generally optimistic tone of his poetry, remains alert to the grimmer implications of mortality, a running theme in ‚ÄúBreaking Bad."
Readers will notice that awareness in quite a few passages of Whitman‚Äôs poetry.
Here, in honor of Whitman‚Äôs newly enhanced celebrity, are 10 quotes from his ‚ÄúLeaves of Grass‚ÄĚ collection:
1) ‚ÄúThe United States themselves are essentially the greatest poem.... Here at last is something in the doings of man that corresponds with the broadcast doings of day and night."
2) ‚ÄúThe proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it.‚ÄĚ
3) ‚ÄúNothing can happen more beautiful than death.‚ÄĚ
4) ‚ÄúI celebrate myself and sing myself. And what I assume you shall assume.‚ÄĚ¬†
5) ‚ÄúI loaf and invite my soul.‚ÄĚ¬†
6) ‚ÄúHas anyone supposed it lucky to be born?‚ÄĚ
I hasten to inform him or her, it is just
As lucky to die, and I know it.‚ÄĚ
7) ‚ÄúWalt Whitman am I, a Kosmos, of
Mighty Manhattan the son,
Turbulent, fleshy and sensual, eating,
drinking and breeding . . .‚ÄĚ¬†
8) ‚ÄúI dote on myself, there is a lot of me
and all so luscious.‚ÄĚ
9) ‚ÄúI believe a leaf of grass is no less than
the journey-work of the stars.‚ÄĚ
10) ‚ÄúBehold! I do not give lectures or a little
When I give I give myself.‚ÄĚ