Love and Sexuality in Movie the Notebook
One man writes of emotion rather than ideas while the other young boy searches for what he read about from the man until he finds it. Did the young man truly know what he was reading meant? I’m not sure, I would like to think so, but he may have been oblivion just as many others are before truly digging into the poem. While sitting on the front porch he read aloud,
“The negligent list of one after another, as I happen to call them to me, or think of them, The real poems, (what we call poems being merely pictures,) The poems of the privacy of the night, and of men like me, This poem, drooping shy and unseen, that I always carry, and all men carry,”
How it works
this poem, Spontaneous Me, written by the famous Walt Whitman was one of the many poems from Leaves of Grass recited by Noah in the movie The Notebook. One may ask why would a poem from the 1800’s be used in 2004 movie? The answer to this is love and sexuality. No matter what day and time it is, love and sexuality are there in some shape or form. Spontaneous Me is more than just a poem, is about nature/love/men’s desires which will be broken down and explained later. During Whitman’s time, and Noah’s time, 1940’s, anything sexual was looked at as inappropriate. Whitman used the poem to talk about how love is natural thus intertwining nature and desire into one thing. I do believe this is why Spontaneous Me was used in The Notebook and was recited right before the attempted love scene.
Walt Whitman is someone who you either like or hate. Whitman is the “Father of the Free Verse” which is most definitely so. Whitman is a man who expresses emotion through his writing. Due to this type of writing style, his poetry can be hard to understand at times. The reader can read the poem three or four different times and still be just as confused if not more confused. Whitman can leave you asking yourself what in the world did I just read or listen to? To understand how Whitman writes his poetry it is best to break it down line by line and depict what Whitman is truly expressing. All of this is so in Spontaneous me, Whitman uses nature to hide what he is truly saying.
The Notebook is one of those regular chick flicks, so you know how the romance goes with the typical lovey-dovey mushy stuff that makes you either cry your eyes out or vomit at the mere mentioning of it. However, in case you have never watched or heard about The Notebook here is a very quick and to the point plot of the movie, so you better understand the connection of the movie and Spontaneous Me. The Notebook is about a poor boy, Noah, and rich girl, Allie, who fall in love. Allie’s parents do not agree with them being in love, afraid that their love is dangerous thus moving away taking Allie away from Noah. Noah writes daily but Allie’s mother hides the letters. Noah finds out Allie is engaged to a rich man. Noah restores the house from the attempted love scene and Allie goes to see him. They fall back in love, Noah says he wrote the letters, and Allie dumps her fiancé for Noah. They get married and are happy until Allie develops dementia, so Noah reads her their love story in hopes that she will recall their love story. She remembers one last time and they die together.
Whitman likes to repeat certain phrases or words in Spontaneous Me, leaving emphasis on what he is talking about. For example, the very first line repeats the title followed by nature. Whitman is wanting to make sure early on that the reader understands he is relating this to nature. He then continues to paint an imagery of nature through his expression of word choices such as “the hill-side whiten’d with blossoms of the mountain ash”. Further down in the poem he repeats the word love and body over and over. Inevitably, when love is in the picture it of course involves the two bodies of the man and the woman. He talks about the arms, hands, lips, phallic thumb (cleaver way to hide erection Whitman), breasts, and bellies glued together which is again talking about sex but in an indirect but again direct fashion. When Whitman is talking about all the different bodies, he also says the body of the earth before going heavily into reproduction cycle of nature. This is then when Whitman talks about how the hairy wild-bee holds himself tightly to the lady-flower until he is satisfied, giving a very vivid explanation of this. Toward the end, Whitman then tells how the young man and woman flushes again bringing in the sexuality of things. Whitman is trying to get the reader to relate the men’s desire/love/nature together in a very creative way. Throughout the whole poem, Whitman will go back and forth between human and nature thus weaving the two concepts together until the end of the poem. Whitman interlocks the meaning of nature, true environmental aspects, and love, two people in romance, into one bigger theme because both of these are uncontrollable, they happen without a glimpse of the eye.
Going back to just a few lines into the poem is then when the recited quote from the movie appears. I did however notice one thing different. In the movie Noah says, “drink to them” but Whitman wrote “think of them”. I do believe Noah said drink to them because the list of one after another let him down. Also, alcohol had just been legalized again in the 1930s close to Noah’s time. Drinking alcohol since then is still common even in America today. This could explain why the change was in this single line or it simply could have been a blunder. Whitman then reiterates that his poems are emotions and not just ideas through his real poem verses what we call poems. The privacy of night then talks about something sexual happening. I do believe that the line, “this poem, drooping shy and unseen” Whitman is referring to a man’s private area since all men carry it and a few lines later Whitman mentions the phallic thumb of love. I believe this is why this line is recited in the movie and placed before an attempted sex scene.
Whitman uses this poem to show men’s desires and how he is not ashamed of what he feels as a man. Love and sexuality are something that have been and will always be in America. In the 1800s, the sexuality may not have been readily talked about like it is today, but it is still mentioned and looked-for whether that be in day-to-day lives, poetry, or in a movie. Toward the end of the poem, Whitman mentions, “the oath of procreation I have sworn -my Adamic and fresh daughters” here is just another example of how love has always been in society. This is relating back to Adam and Eve and how they started the whole love and sexuality to be passed along through generations to come.
In conclusion, Spontaneous Me was logically placed at a time in the movie that relates back to what the poem is actually talking about. The poem was used in the movie due to the true meaning that lies beneath the surface of the writing. Both the movie and the poem have men that just want the girl, the sex, and nature running its course of love. Love and sexuality aren’t going to just disappear because just as Whitman said in the ending of his poem about producing boys to fill his place when he is through, there will always be another young man lusting after a young woman thus reproducing. Even in nature there is love and reproduction. Without the bee we wouldn’t have beautiful flowers just as Whitman illustrated the love between the two in the poem. At first, I was not a fan of Whitman, but after diving into this poem I am at awe for his work. I am amazed at how a poem from the 1800s can be used today and show that no matter what we all are human and “spontaneous”.