Symbolism In O Captain ! My Captain, By Walt Whitman

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The art of creating perfect harmony within a written piece is easier said than done. A writer must consider the unification of multiple poetic devices in order to create a piece of great value. For this to occur, a poet must be aware of this quote: “A poet would like all parts of a poem-words, lines, stanzas, thoughts, metaphors, rhythms, imagery, diction, syntax, etc. - to work in perfect harmony.” A poem without harmony does not read right nor does it appeal to readers. Luckily, the renowned poet, Walt Whitman, has mastered the art of poetic harmony. Whitman is an American poet who spreads his patriotic ideas and observations through pieces that never conform to poetic traditions. This can be seen through his poems “O Captain! My Captain!” and “I Hear America Singing.” Walt Whitman geniusly blends literary devices so they can work together to form a unified meaning.
The poem, “O Captain! My Captain!”, is one of great patriotism and coordination. This is achieved through the usage of poetic devices such as symbolism and line length. Symbolism can be found when Whitman writes: “O Captain! My Captain! Our fearful trip is done; / The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won; / The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting” (1-3). Alone, the device has given this poem a powerful double meaning. Without the symbolism, the poem is just about a voyage where the captain dies. With the usage of symbolism however, the poem becomes one about the Civil War and its casualties. The Civil War is represented through the fearful trip, Abraham Lincoln shown through the Captain, America symbolized through the ship and the North through the people exulting or celebrating. Though symbolism plays a big part in this poem, line length does too. It is shown throughout the entirety of this poem, specifically when Whitman writes: “My Captain does not answer… / Fallen cold and dead” (17-24). In each paragraph, there are four lines of longer length and four of shorter length. Whitman uses these different line lengths to share both the happiness of the victory and grief of the Captain’s death. The varying line lengths also help create the poem’s rhythm by creating a constant flow. Through the sharing of
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