In the edition of 1856, Whitman used the title "Poem of Walt Whitman, an American", which was shortened to "Song of Myself" in the 1860 edition. The poem was divided into fifty-two numbered sections in the 1867 edition.
In the following 1855 passage, for example, we can see Whitman's inclusion of the gritty details of everyday life :
The lunatic is carried at last to the asylum a confirmed case,
He will never sleep any more as he did it in the cot in his mother's bedroom;
The jour printer with gray head and gaunt jaws works at his case,
He turns his quid of tobacco, his eyes get blurred with the manuscript;
The malformed limbs are tied to the anatomist's table,
What is removed drops horribly in a pail;
The quadroon girl is sold at the stand . . . . the drunkard nods by the barroom stove ... (section 15)
There are several other quotes from the poem that make it apparent that Whitman does not see himself as the voice of one individual. Rather, he seems to be speaking for all:
Two articles, Alice L. Cook's "A Note on Whitman's Symbolism in 'Song of Myself'" and John B. Mason's "Walt Whitman Catalogues: Rhetorical Means for Two Journeys in 'Song of Myself", give interpretations as to the meaning of the 'self' as well as its importance to the poem. Cook writes of the “concept of 'self' in its individual and universal aspects” while Mason discusses “the reader’s involvement in the poet’s movement from the singular to the cosmic.” The "self" serves as an ideal which, unlike epic poetry of the past, this identify is one of the common people rather than an elevated hero.
I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.
"Song of Myself" is studied by students in the film Loving Annabelle.
It is also referenced in the movie The Notebook.
In the film Dead Poets Society, Robin William's character uses the line "I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world" to teach his students about true poetry.