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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 around a leader and possibly someone who is crying out to this leader. The first lines of the poem state, “O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done, / The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,” (lines 1-2). This reveals to the reader that an important journey has taken place and resulted in a certain type of victory for the captain and his crew. The capitalization of the word “captain” portrays to the reader the importance of this figure to the speaker. Lines three through four maintain the joyous atmosphere as the excitement of the people at the harbor is illustrated upon the returning of the ship. This description is relevant to the excitement of the civilians as his or her loved ones returned home after the Civil War. The stanza ends in a tone opposite of that in which it began when the speaker states, “O the bleeding drops of red, / Where on the deck my Captain lies, / Fallen cold and dead” (lines 6-8). This is the first of many times that the death of the Captain, w...


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...se of repetition places emphasis on the fact that the captain is really dead. It also demonstrates how the death of the Captain was a severely devastating price to pay for the great social achievement which ensued.
“O Captain! My Captain!” is successful in telling the story of a highly appraised leader whose great efforts allowed him and those who followed him to obtain a huge victory. The happiness which should have surrounded this situation was quickly disguised by the assassination of the country’s leader who only had a short period of time to enjoy what he had accomplished. If the Captain had lived to receive his rightful recognition, Lincoln would have been more inspired to bring about greater changes for the overall prosperity of the country. The loss of the captain lead to uncertainty for the future of America and its further progress towards human rights.



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