top-rated free essay

O Captain! My Captain!

By student_of_literature Mar 09, 2014 584 Words

“O Captain! My Captain!” Literary Analysis
Every great nation’s past contains a great leader who sacrificed everything for his or her country. Abraham Lincoln gave his life after striving to abolish slavery. Soon after Lincoln’s murder, Walt Whitman wrote an apostrophe poem to Lincoln. In this eulogy, Whitman praised Lincoln’s accomplishments and mourned his death. In “O Captain! My Captain!”, Walt Whitman uses repetition, symbolism, assonance, and metaphors to portray the theme that every great leader should stand ready to lay down his or her life.

Whitman uses repetition to show uncertainty about Lincoln’s death and symbolism to relate his victory and his death. When “O Captain! my Captain!” (1, 9, 13) is repeated it shows Whitman’s growing uncertainty about Lincoln’s assassination. The first line has an encouraging tone; however, with each repetition the tone carries more desperation. Lines five and six use the same desperate tone to show that Whitman still wants Lincoln to be alive: “But O heart! heart! heart! / O the bleeding drops of red,” (5-6). Whitman shows his acceptance of the death at the end of each stanza with a calm tone: “Fallen cold and dead. / You’ve fallen cold and dead. / Fallen cold and dead” (8, 16, 24). The use of repetition provides different tones and gives emphasis to specific feelings. Starting in the first line and continuing throughout the poem, Whitman uses symbolism to relate Lincoln’s victory and death. In stanza two, Whitman states: “O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells; / Rise up – for you the flag is flung – for you the bugle trills; / For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths – for you the shores a-crowding;” (9-11). Everything listed could have been used to congratulate Lincoln on his victory when he returned home. Nevertheless, those things could represent ways to mourn Lincoln’s death. Whitman utilizes assonance to provide structure, and he makes the entire poem an extended metaphor to represent Lincoln’s sacrifice for this country. Whitman uses assonance to make “O Captain! My Captain!” a more fluent and structured work of literature: for you the bugle trills;

his lips are pale and still;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won; (10, 17, 20). Not only does assonance create flow and structure, but it also makes certain words or phrases attract more attention which makes the line more memorable. Whitman’s clever use of assonance adds another impressive dimension to his work. It separates “O Captain! My Captain!” from the mediocre poems and raises the bar. The poem is a eulogy to Abraham Lincoln even though his name is never mentioned. The entire poem is an extended metaphor: “O Captain! my captain! our fearful trip is done; / The ship has weather’d every rack, … / Here Captain! dear father!” (1-2, 13). Whitman is comparing a ship to the Union. The captain and father is representative of Abraham Lincoln, and the trip is being referred to as the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, but he gave his life for his valiance and effort. Walt Whitman used repetition, symbolism, assonance, and an extended metaphor to capture Lincoln’s sacrifice in a eulogistic poem. This poem is a testimony that if people do their absolute best, then they will have an impact on everyone around them. A person’s impact may cause his or her legacy to stick around to be remembered in the history books. Whitman creatively portrayed a pivotal moment in history to something as every day as a captain and his ship.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • O Captain My Captain by Walt Whitman

    ...O Captain My Captain by Walt Whitman O captain My captain was an expiring poem for me. This poem filled my mind with great memories snd make think of my loved ones who are now Angels.I am still feeling the connection. In my opinion, I can say that peopleare physically dead be we can keep them in our mind alive as long as we want the...

    Read More
  • Dead Poets Society – O Captain! My Captain!

    ...done;/the ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won" The poem O Captain! My Captain! Written by Walt Whitman starts out by describing what happened at the begging of his eventful journey in which the captain and his sailors went on. In stanza one the captain and his sailors arrive at their destination point when suddenly the...

    Read More
  • O Captain, My Captain

    ...of “O Captain, My Captain” by Poet Walt Whitman “O Captain! My Captain” is a poem written by American poet Walt Whitman which expresses admiration for the 16th president of the United States of America who was assassinated. Written as an elegy in memory of Abraham Lincoln, who led the nation through turbulent times during the Civil War...

    Read More
  • O Captian, My Captain

    ... O’ Captain! My Captain This poem by Walt Whitman was written in 1895 honoring Abraham Lincoln right after his assassination. Whitman admired Lincoln as the “Redeemer President” since he came from the “real west” upbringing (the log hut, the clearing, the woods, the prairie, the hillside etc.) which Whitman longed for. After becom...

    Read More
  • O Captain My Captain

    ...Jonathan Schnicker Mr. Jennings Comp. 2 5/4/06 Loyalty and Integrity Integrity is a character trait. It is the willingness to do what is right even when no one is looking. It is the "moral compass" the inner voice. . A person of integrity possesses moral courage and does what is right even if the personal cost is high. The drama; A ...

    Read More
  • O Captain, My Captain

    ...Taylor James Mrs. Boatright English 12 November 12, 2012 O Captain! My Captain! Written in 1865 by Walt Whitman, “O Captain! My Captain” explains the death of a great and beloved sea captain after a very hard voyage has been completed. This poem captures the speakers emotions and the sorrow over the loss of the esteemed captain. Whitman...

    Read More
  • O CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN

    ...“O’ Captain! My Captain!” Commentary “O’Captain! My Captain!”, written by Walt Whitman, is an elegy about the assassination of president Abraham Lincoln. In the poem, the first six lines are joyous and celebratory. After those six lines, the poem’s tone becomes very mournful. The overall theme is that losing the person wh...

    Read More
  • ‘O Captain! My Captain’

    ...‘O Captain! My Captain’ is a moving poem in which Whitman expresses his profound sense of grief at a tragic end of a leader of men is addressed to Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest presidents of the United States of America, who fought a war (the American Civil War) against the Southern States to give the Negro slaves freedom and human di...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.