Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. Walter White's name is reminiscent of the poet, a fact that has played a major role as a plot device in Breaking Bad and used up to the mid-season finale of season five.
Gale Boetticher had given Walt a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, a collection of poems, which has been seen several times since. Prior to giving this gift, Boetticher, an avid Whitman fan, recites "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer", one of the poems found in Leaves of Grass.
In the episode "Hazard Pay", Walt finds his copy of Leaves of Grass as he is packing up his bedroom, briefly smiles and leaves the book out to read. When Walt discovers the book, he is at an especially high time in his life, where he feels that things are coming together and he is succeeding in all ventures. A poem in the book, "Song of Myself", is based on many of these same feelings, furthering the connection between Walt's life and Whitman's poetry.
- "Gliding o'er all, through all, Through Nature, Time, and Space, As a ship on the waters advancing, The voyage of the soul—not life alone, Death, many deaths I'll sing."
- ―Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
The season five mid-season finale "Gliding Over All" is named after poem 271 of Whitman's Leaves of Grass. In that episode, Hank finds a copy of Leaves of Grass in Walt's bathroom and opens it to the cover page where he finds the inscription
- "To my other favorite W.W. It's an honour working with you. Fondly G.B."
Upon reading that, Hank becomes visibly shocked. The episode ends immediately after.
In the antepenultimate episode "Ozymandias", a subtle reference is made to Walt Whitman and his poem 'The Dalliance of the Eagles' . As the hit man Jack Welker points a gun at Jesse Pinkman's head, he looks up and sees two eagles gliding above him, possibly in reference to the imagery in Whitman's poem. This is also possibly in reference to the "Spotted hawk" from verse 52 of Whitman's poem 'Song of Myself.' In the final episode "Felina", Jesse lets out a "barbaric yawp" of his own when escaping White Supremacist Compound, mirroring Whitman's words from the same verse, which are also referenced in "Half Measures".
- "The spotted hawk swoops by and accuses me, he complains
- of my gab and my loitering.
- I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
- I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."
--Walt Whitman, Song of Myself