O Captain My Captain Analysis

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The date: April 14, 1865. The location: Ford’s Theatre, Washington D.C. Five days prior, General Robert E. Lee had surrendered at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln, whose tenure as Commander-in-chief would be remembered as one of integrity and determination, was enjoying the play Our American Cousin when well-known stage actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth, part of a larger conspiracy to dismantle the Union, assassinated the incumbent. The shockwaves reverberated across the country in both the North and the South and offered a humbling reminder of a fact often forgotten: no one, man or woman, regardless of their accomplishments, is free from the sin of humanity.…show more content…
My Captain!” was published in the second edition of Drum-taps in September, 1865 and was quite the departure from the author’s usual style of writing. Recognized for his long, free-verse lines, this work contained regular rhyme and meter, highly uncharacteristic of the poet. Each stanza is made up of four lines with twelve or thirteen syllables that rhyme A-A-B-B, which are followed by four lines with five or six syllables that rhyme X-C-X-C. This digression from tradition was not one the author embraced, Whitman would later say, “I’m almost sorry I ever wrote the poem.”. This statement comes as a surprise given the fact that this work remains a hallmark of American poetry. Additionally, Whitman was well-known for themes of death and rebirth, most prevalent in his works “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” and “The Compost”. Both of the aforementioned motifs play a large role in “O Captain! My Captain!”, although not in a way that immediately stands out to the reader, but in a way that becomes clear through analysis. At the end of the first stanza, Whitman closes with, “Where on the deck my Captain lies,/ Fallen cold and dead.”. This ending is repeated in various forms at the closing of the next two stanzas, but offers a prelude to the third and fourth lines of the final stanza, “The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,/ From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;”. Although the poem ends on a solemn note, revival is…show more content…
In fact, they permeate the poem, adding to the overall ambience of the literature. Whitman clearly wants readers to understand the importance of the captain and does so by not only repeating the word but also by using another leader-esque term in order to play at an underlying theme. Mentioned above, Whitman was renowned for his themes of death and rebirth and there is no story regarding death and rebirth more famous than that of Jesus Christ. Crucified by Pontius Pilate only to rise again three days later, the story transcends time and weaves its way into “O Captain! My Captain!” for April 14 was no ordinary Friday. April 14 happened to be Good Friday, or the day on which Catholics commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This was not lost on Whitman, although he does not address it directly, but the timing was very influential on Herman Melville, author of the aforementioned poem “The Martyr”. Jesus gave his life so that man could be forgiven and although Lincoln did not deliberately leave this world, his eternal rest gave the nation common ground on which to build the foundation for a new America. Melville states that his poem is, “Indicative of the Passion of the People on the 15th Day of April, 1865”, a passion of anger and threatened violence. Melville begins the poem in a special way, “Good Friday was the day/ Of the prodigy and crime”. The beginning, on its own, could easily be interpreted as a description of
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