Whitman vs. Dickinson

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Whitman vs. Dickinson

Death; termination of vital existence; passing away of the physical state. Dying comes along with a pool of emotions that writers have many times tried to explain. Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were two pioneer poets from the Romantic Era, that introduced new, freer styles of writing to modern poetry at the time. Both Whitman and Dickinson have similar ideas in their writing, but each has a unique touch of expression in their works. Both poets have portrayed death in their poetry as a relief, a salvation, or escape to a better place- another life. They have formulated death as a positive yet ambiguous state. In Dickinson's "Narrow Fellow in the Grass" and Whitman's "Wound-Dresser", there exists a link in both poets ideas of death through each individuals style of writing.

Both poets, through their distinct voice and word-choice, arrive at the same conclusion of death being a good and positive thing. Whitman's "Wound-Dresser" tells the story of an old man remembering his war-tales of watching soldiers die. These dying soldiers resemble Jesus, they were dying for a cause; for their country; for a "world of gain and appearance and mirth" (line 21). This resemblance brings the religious connotation into the poem. He compares the soldiers (Jesus) to nature, "like a swift-running river they fade" (line 18); which gives the impression that to him, God is nature. Whitman also incorporates phrases such as, "I am faithful" (line 56) to reinforce this religious connotation. After all, death is in many ways related to religion, every religion has a theory on death. He states: "-poor boy! I never knew you/ Yet I think I could not refuse this moment to die for you, if that would save/ You" (lines ...

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...ia imagination. Her tone to the poem is very innocent-like and simple, yet with much meaning if read between the lines. Whitman's tone on the other hand, is more straightforward, dramatic and impacting. He describes in more gross detail.

Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman each differ in the manner in which they write; they each have unique styles. Though they differ in the tone and voice, they arrive at similar conclusions of death in their poems "Wound-Dresser" (by Whitman) and "Narrow Fellow in the Grass" (by Dickinson). Whitman explains the healing effect that death brings to suffering people as sweet and sad. Whilst Dickinson shows signs of death being a path to an afterlife. Both poets portray death as being good.


The Norton Anthology of American Literatutre. shorter fifth edition. norton publishing. london, new york. 1999
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