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Summary Of "O Captain! My Captain!"

825 words - 4 pages

When President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, a war-weary nation was plunged into shock. The last great battles of the Civil War were still a recent memory, and the murder of the president seemed to be a bloody, pointless coda to four years of conflict and instability. There was a great outpouring of grief across the country, and poems and songs were written mourning the nation’s loss.
One American who grieved for the fallen president was the poet Walt Whitman. Whitman had lived in Washington for most of the war and was a great admirer of Lincoln, whom he felt embodied the American virtues of plain-spookiness, courage, and "horse-sense." He often saw the ...view middle of the document...

The captain Whitman refers to is Abraham Lincoln. He is the head of a great ship, which represents America. The ship’s trip across sea corresponds to the Civil War, and the ship nearing the port illustrates how the time the poem takes place is the end of the Civil War, as the trip across sea is coming to an end. The port symbolizes the ultimate goal of the Union, to free the slaves. As the ship continues to approach port, the Captain suddenly falls dead on the deck this signifies Lincoln’s assassination. From this point on, Whitman repeatedly calls to Lincoln, begging him to get up and see the roaring crows of Union supporters waiting for him at shore. Whitman also begs Lincoln to rise up and witness his goal of emancipating slave be achieved. However, Lincoln lays motionless on the deck, and Whitman must accept the reality of Lincoln’s death.
Whitman not only uses images and metaphors to illustrate the mood of the elegy, but also sound through his diction. For instance, Whitman writes “O Captain! My Captain! rise up and hear the bells”. He makes the bells refer to the excitement of the roaring crowd at the port. Whitman asks Lincoln to look up and see the fruits of his labor waiting for him. The author continues to use sound by asking Lincoln to hear the “bugle trills”. These trills refer to the...

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