discovers Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself”
as part of his search for Margo
, but as he progresses in his investigation — turning his attention as he does from Margo and her intentions, to himself and the many ways that he has misunderstood and mis-imagined Margo — the poem becomes a platform for Quentin to being formulating a more generous, compassionate, and humble way of relating to others. Whitman is a tremendously empathetic poet, who believes that all people are interconnected, and through their connections can learn, not only to understand one another, but to become one another. When Quentin finally talks to Margo about the poem at the end of the novel, though, he questions the accuracy of Whitman’s operative philosophy. He is less optimistic than Whitman, because his experience of searching for Margo has taught him how difficult it can be to really connect with and understand another person, but he does draw from Whitman’s optimism in crafting his own philosophy of human connection. Quentin’s image of human beings as vessels whose cracks allow others to see them clearly, borrows Whitman’s optimism to construct a generous vision for how human beings can come to love one another in spite of and because of their flaws.