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“O Captain! My Captain!”: Analysis of the Poem


“O Captain! My Captain!” is a famous poem that was written by Walt Whitman. It is among the 18 poems that have the background of the American civil war. The poem was published in a pamphlet that is known as Sequel to-Drum – Taps in 1865. Therefore, you can confidently answer the question when was “O Captain! My Captain!” written. It is a crucial step in the “O Captain! My Captain!” poem analysis.

The poem has a historical value and was composed as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln; an American president that Whitman admired. The poetry has been gaining a lot of popularity all over the world because of its artistic merit.

“O Captain! My Captain!” is an elegy which means it was written as a funeral song. The author used a strong figurative language all over the poem in expressing his respect and mourning the loss of Abraham Lincoln. His expression of grief and mourning marks the center of this poem. What sticks to the mind of the readers is the passionate expression of the writer of his love for the dead captain. In this article, we will look at a brief analysis of Walt Whitman “O Captain! My Captain!” analysis. You can use it as a guide for handling your literature work or an English essay. You can also use the same approach in analyzing other poems similar to “O Captain! My Captain!”.

Major Themes in “O Captain! My Captain!” analysis

This poem has the sentiments of the author regarding the death of his captain. The writer admires his captain for the victory that they won together. The demise of Abraham Lincoln towards the end of the civil war is the main theme that runs throughout the poem. This occurrence deprived the US citizens of a great president. Every stanza in this poem provides a clue about this war. Therefore, the “O Captain! My Captain!” analysis line by line should reflect this theme. Even though the fearful trips comes to an end, bells ring that the captain is no more to enjoy the great victory.

Analyzing the Literally Devices in the “O Captain! My Captain!” analysis

Literally devices are tools that project the hidden meaning in a text. These literally devices help the writer to equip the poetry with a powerful impact on their reader. Here are some of the literally devices that Whitman uses to enrich his poem. You have to make sure that they are part of your “O Captain! My Captain!” analysis.

  • Metaphor
  • This poem has three extended metaphors. The first one is “Captain” that is used in the first line and runs through the poem. At this point, Captain is Abraham Lincoln who dies in the battle. The voyage journey is full of trials and tests but now the ship nearing the port represents the Civil War timeline. ‘Ship’ is the third metaphor that represents the US that has gone through the Civil War.

  • Personification
  • Whitman gives human qualities to objects that have no life to bring up the element of personification. He personifies the walk of the author as a ‘mournful tread’ as he can’t live without this captain. Also, he personifies shores in line 21 where he says, ‘Exult, O Shores!’ It’s like the shores are human beings and will be blowing the victory of trumpets.

  • Apostrophe
  • Apostrophe is a device that poets use to call something or somebody from far. The poet uses apostrophe to call his dead captain. The phrase “O Captain! My Captain” expresses attachment and love of the speaker with the captain.

  • Alliteration
  • Is the repetition of one consonant sounds in the same poetry lines of the poem like the use of f/f/ in “flag is flung” and the /s/ sound in “safe and sound.”

  • Consonance
  • Consonance refers to the repetition of consonant sounds like /g/ sound in the “flag is flung.”

  • Assonance
  • This is the repetition of vowel sounds in one line like the sounds of /i/ in the “ship and “trip.”

In summary, the use of the above devices helps Whitman to effectively demonstrate his love for military heroes.

Analyzing the Poetic Devices in “O Captain! My Captain!”

Most poetic devices share similar qualities with the literally devices. Here is a brief analysis of the poetic devices that you will find in the o captain my captain poem.

  • Stanza
  • Stanzas are poetic forms of a few lines. This poem has three stanzas each having eight verses.

  • Double Quatrain
  • Quatrains are four line stanzas and double quatrains refer to eight line stanzas. Each stanza in this poem has eight lines but the last four and first four are embedded together with various meters.

  • Heroic Couplet
  • Walt Whitman used heroic couplet to write his poem. However, he speaks the last two stanzas in four lines each using the end rhyme and conventional meter.

  • Rhyme
  • This poem follows the AABBCDED with a few internal rhymes. However, the poet does not follow a specific rhyme scheme in the whole poem.

  • Scansion
  • This is a poem that does not follow a patterned or traditional meter. Even though the meter is largely iambic, there are several inconstancies. Thus, the poem has a scansion structure.

  • Refrain
  • These are lines that are repeated at some distance in the poem. In this poem, the line “fallen cold and dead” is used in the last and first stanza.

  • Repetition
  • The poem has repetition on the phrases “O Captain! My Captain!’ and “fallen cold and dead.” It creates the desired musical quality in the poem.

Conclusion

These poetic devices and structural devices have enhanced the musical quality of this poem. The two features enhances the meanings in a manner that does not lose the impact of the sorrows and pain on the readers. These tips can help students to understand “O Captain! My Captain!” meaning better. You can use it to write your own “O Captain! My Captain!” analysis. If you’re looking for more relevant essay topic ideas, we advise you to consider texting and driving. Good luck!

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