The Alegorical Nature of O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman to the Journey of Abraham Lincoln

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Explication of “O Captain! My Captain!” “O Captain! My Captain!” is one of the most popular poems ever written by Walt Whitman. Upon the initial reading of this poem, one may perceive the poem to be about a loyal captain who leads his crew on a treacherous, but successful, voyage which ends in devastation. If interpreted literally this is the poem’s only meaning, but for those who look further there is an underlying story behind the words of Whitman. Whitman uses multiple literary elements throughout this poem in order to unmask the story of Abraham Lincoln’s journey and ultimate death as a result of the Civil War and his fight to end slavery. The title of the poem, “O Captain! My Captain!” , insinuates that the poem will be centered …show more content…

The speaker states, “Rise up – for you the flag is flung- for you the bugle trills” (line 10). This is interpreted as the ending of the war due to the patriotic symbolism of the flag which stands for freedom and also victory. Within this stanza, the importance of the captain is now extended from just the speaker to all those who await the ship’s arrival. This is demonstrated as the speaker states, “For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning” (lines 11-12). The joyful tone of the stanza ceases towards the end as an unexpected downfall of emotions begins. Whitman uses repetition in lines 15 and 16 when he states “It is some dream that on the deck, / You’ve fallen cold and dead” (lines 15-16). This serves as a disturbing reminder that the figure which was most significant to the entire situation is no longer alive. The depressing realization of the captain’s death is evident and seen most within the last stanza as the tone changes from that of triumph and elation to heartbreak and grief. This is shown through Whitman’s use of imagery as the speaker states, “My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still, / My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will” (lines 17-18). This provides a detailed description of the lifeless captain as he lies on the deck. The following lines describe the successfulness of the mission as the captain has led his crew to safety after accomplishing the goals which were set. This alteration in tone

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