Walt Whitman and the Beats lived a hundred years apart, yet they endured similar circumstances. Both Whitman and the Beatniks suffered through times of danger, and used poetry to seek out the beauty of the world. Whitman lived and wrote throughout and after the Civil War. The Beats lived through a similar time — post-WWII and amidst a very real nuclear threat. Whitman’s poetry, much like that of Kerouac and Ginsberg, faced both adoration and damnation. Whitman was once fired because his employer found out he had published the book of poetry Leaves of Grass, which he found offensive; however, the scholar M. Jimmy Killingsworth praises the very same work for overcoming moral, psychological, and political boundaries.
Though a century passed between them, Whitman is considered a major influenceono the beats in his love of nature, his search for truth and beauty, and his discontentedness with the norm. He lived a humble life away from the fame and fortune he could have earned as his literature, like Kerouac’s and Ginsberg’s, became an icon for American Literature.