Death and Love in Walt Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle Endlessly
Rocking” and Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop For Death”
According to Sigmund Freud’s theories, all of human instincts, energies, and motivations derive from two drives, the sexual and the death drives. The sexual drive initiates self-preservation and erotic instincts, while the death drive moves toward self-destruction and aggression. The death drive contains the individual’s unconscious desire to die, which implies seeking the destruction of the sexual drive. This is why, acording to Stephen P. Thornton, “Freud gave sexual drives an importance and centrality in human life, human actions, and human behavior” (Thornton). Thus, In Freudian terms, every decision and feeling that we have can be traced back to one of these drives and both together make us human. In Walt Whitman’s “Out of The Cradle Endlessly Rocking” and Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” we witness the internal and external connection and struggle of love and death (Eros and Thanatos), and their creative result, complex and beautiful verses.
Walt Whitman’s “Out of The Cradle Endlessly Rocking” is on a basic level a reminiscent story of Whitman as a child on the beach who listens to the songs of birds and of the sea. However, this long poem is also about the connection between nature and the poet, a reflection on the endless cycle of love (or life) and death, the death of innocence and, for Whitman, the inevitable birth of a poet. Whitman’s poem begins with the narrator introducing himself and remembering the sorrows of a night from his childhood. The reader is then introduced to two other characters a “he-bird” and a “she-bird” that are in love and singing. Soon after the bird’s first song the boy sees that the she-bird has gone missing and hasn’t returned for days. In a desperate attempt to contact his lost love the bird sings a beautiful song to the land, the moon “heavy with love” (76), the...
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