Literary Terms In Walt Whitman's O 'Captain ! My Captain !'

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Literary Terms in Walt Whitman’s “O’Captain! My Captain!” On the surface, Whitman’s poem appears to be about a captain that died at sea after a rough voyage. Directly under the surface, however, is actually a different poem entirely. “O’Captain! My Captain!” is actually a poem about the death of President Abraham Lincoln after his victory in the Civil War. Whitman uses many literary devices to paint a dark and grief filled picture of Lincoln’s death. The way Whitman writes about Lincoln shows that his death was personal to Whitman. The beginning of the poem starts off building excitement:
O’Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the
…show more content…
The narrator exclaims to the captain, then proceeds to describe their victory. Initially, it appears that the poem has an uplifting tone that draws the reader in. In the next verse, however, there is a twist that changes the tone to show a grimmer outlook. The last line of the first verse, “…the vessel grim and daring;” (Whitman 716) is the only hint that the poem is about to take a dark turn. It is a use of personification that also serves to help the poem transition. Whitman’s description of the vessel also describes the war. Lincoln’s endeavor to end slavery was indeed daring. The war was also grim, with many lives lost to reach victory, including Lincoln himself in the end. This poem contains a large amount of imagery. Whitman uses it artfully to show his grief about the loss of Lincoln. He writes a shocking description of the captain …show more content…
The exclamation, “But O heart! Heart! Heart!” (Whitman 718) almost forces the reader to feel the impact of the words. Whitman’s own heart was hurting from what he was about the describe. The reason the poem is so relatable is that Whitman’s own emotions are so tangible. His writing is so intense and an excellent combination of both physical and emotional descriptions. This poem is packed with symbolism. There are three important uses of symbolism that make the poem. The first symbol is the captain, which is actually referring to President Lincoln. The next use of symbolism is the ship, that is the United States of America. Finally, the voyage, or trip, is a symbol for the war. Without the use of symbols this poem would not exist. Also, the symbols allow the author to write about this tragic event in a way that expresses what he feels, without just writing down the events that occurred, which allows the poem to reach a deeper emotional

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