Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass has a reputation for championing the individual ("I am large, I contain multitudes"), so it's surprising that the most frequently used word in the poem -- "all" -- applies to the collective or universal.
A word cloud generated on WordItOut.com shows that "one," "body," "old," "new" and "man" -- words more adherent to the contemporary conception of Whitman -- are also among his favorites. The unexpected appearance of "all" reveals the less readily clear heart of the poem: that all individuals are connected by their primal, natural desires, and that upholding the importance of the individual simultaneously romanticizes the universal.
In a way, the visualization of Whitman's language can serve as a map to understanding the underlying emotions his work is meant to evoke. "All" is a nexus around which more specific details ("sea," "land," "war," "words," "woman") float.
Word clouds made from the texts of other classic works unearth a similar experience -- an emotional, impressionistic interpretation of stories we're used to analyzing methodically (although some do little more than highlight how often writers use "said," or protagonists' names).
The mood of Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, for example, is captured nicely by the word cloud, which highlights ethereal-sounding words like "moment," "seemed" and "felt." Conversely, a word cloud made from the text of a Hemingway book turns out short, punchy language like "hands," "took," "dark" and "man."
And now, eight intriguing word clouds from well-known texts:
Word clouds created on WordItOut.com using text from Project Gutenberg.