Out From Behind This Mask
By: Walt Whitman
In Whitman’s poem Out From Behind This Mask, the poem starts out by talking about the passion and excitement that to many, lies just out of reach. Whitman is trying to illustrate how this ecstasy is much closer than once thought, by comparing the barrier as a curtain or a mask. The wonders that lie beyond this mask range from “passionate teeming plays” to “the glaze of God’s serenest, purest sky.” To Whitman, the possibilities are endless. In the first line, “Out from behind this bending, rough-cut mask”, Walt Whitman establishes that this poem has a personalized message for each reader with the “rough-cut mask” symbolizing everyone’s outside appearance (or face). The third and fourth lines establish the unity of each person’s own life. Line 6 describes how the face can guise what the heart feels and lines 7-10 explains that the face can express beauty and ugliness as well as being a “limitless small continent” (showing unfathomable amounts of features in a condensed area). Whitman then expresses that the face is more distinct than any planet (or other body) and that our lives revolve around ‘the face’. In line 17, the first connection between universes (or faces) is made by sight, “These burned eyes”. Whitman then proceeds to express how this “look” is such a unlikely occurrence, almost a miracle by odds. The “look” is the refined to a glance between two passing people. He states that this ‘glance’ can occur anywhere and that at the moment your eyes meet, your souls are one for an instant. As the poem progresses, Walt then defines freedom, by comparing it to astrological articles. Freedom is more delicate than the sun or the moon, or any of the planets (Jupiter, Venus, Mars), and it is as condense as the universe. Mr. Whitman then not only creates a shift in the poem through words, but through punctuation as well.
“To launch and spin through space, revolving, sideling, from these to emanate
To you – whoe’er you are – a look.
A traveler of thoughts and years, of peace and war… (Whitman 19)” The physical lines indicate the shift in the poem, and what was once a lively bright mood now begins to age and slow down, until you reach the last line of the poem, and Whitman states, “To draw and clinch your soul for once inseparably with mine, then travel, travel on. (Whitman 34)” Whitman is trying to leave a last impression on the reader by telling them to take their own path, and bee free. •
In Out From Behind This Mask, the common theme is freedom, and being able to take advantage of it. Walt believes that you need to let your soul free and live life to the fullest. Mr. Whitman makes comments about not seizing the moment and watching it pass by therefore bounding you. “These burned eyes, flashing to you, to pass to future time.” The first and the last lines of the poem set the tone for the whole piece of literature, by clearly stating what message Walt is trying to get across to his readers. “OUT from behind this bending, rough-cut mask,” the first line is so powerful, because it tells the reader that he/she needs to open up and let your soul run free. •
Light/Shade: light represents what freedom has to offer, whenever Whitman
makes a reference to light, phrases like “God’s serenest, purest sky” are
used, while shade refers to what happens when you don’t take advantage
Emotion: Mr. Whitman writes using so many emotions to convince the reader to
make the most of his/her life. Opposites: The motif of opposites occurs primarily in the first half of the poem. The mask is described as “bending, [and] rough-cut” and it is common knowledge that a bent object is not rough by any means, but quite smooth. Whitman uses “lights and shades” to mean ‘the good and the bad’ moments in life. Lines 7-8 hold the best example of opposites in the...
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