At one point, James finds himself at odds with Whitman. It's bad enough he's a sixteen-year-old wrestling with depression, talking to an imaginary pigeon, and failing his sister -- but fighting with a long-dead poet? James might be hopeless!
"You think it would be good to be the writer of melodious verses,
Well it would be good to be the writer of melodious verses;
But what are verses beyond the flowing character you could have? . . . . or beyond beautiful manners and behavior?
Or beyond one manly or affectionate deed of an apprenticeboy? . . or old woman? . . or man that has been in prison or is likely to be in prison?"