Critical Analysis Of Early Morning In The Morning By W. Whitman

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On the surface, this poem seems very straight-forward and simple. Normally, I would leave it at that since I don't believe in looking for symbolism or other meanings in every word of a poem. Sometimes a duck is just a duck. In this poem, however, I think there is a deeper meaning than just telling the story of a soldier reviewing three of his dead comrades early in the morning.

First, let's talk about the setting, early morning in a Union camp. The morning is peaceful, but the speaker is not, due to a sleepless night and restlessness that is the result of uncertainty about whether he will live to see the end of the day. It's also one of those misty, foggy mornings that are common in the early Appalachian spring.

I'm not disputing the story of the poem, by that I mean that this poem is, on its surface, about a man walking through the camp and looking at three fallen soldiers. What I am saying is that Whitman is using this tale to make a bigger statement about the war and the fate of the Union.

We see three men lying under a blanket, each with a different set of characteristics. The old man with his graying hair and sunken eyes, the young boy just experiencing the first blush of manhood and finally the young man in his prime. The first layer of this scene exhibits the broad swath of age that the military required to fight the war. This wasn't today's army of twenty-year-old soldiers. This was an army whose enlisted ranks ranged from very old to very young.

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