Comparing Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson

Comparing Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson

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Comparing Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson


During the time in American history known as the, several poets began to stray from the traditional methods of writing poetry. Among these poets were Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. While these writer's led drastically different lifestyles and had drastically different styles of writing, the messages they presented through their writing were often surprisingly similar. Whitman's poem "Song of Myself, No.6" and Dickinson's poem "This quiet Dust was Gentlemen and Ladies" are examples of pieces which, on the surface, appear completely different, but in fact contain several similarities. Indeed, several similarities and differences can be found between these two poems.
While these works by Whitman and Dickinson are different in many ways, a few similarities can be found between the two. The most obvious of these similarities involves the themes and subject matter of the pieces. Both poems present the idea that life is a continuous and constant circle and that no one is ever really dead as long as he is remembered. Each also suggests that Earth is a living thing which all humans are a piece of in both life and death. Another likeness which can be found in these two poems is the imagery used by the authors. Through Whitman's detailed and vivid description, he allows the reader to form a clear picture of the scene in his head. Likewise, Dickinson use of personification causes the poem to come alive in the reader's mind. Indeed, by observing the themes and imagery found in these two poems, one can see that they do contain some similarities.
Though these similarities do exist, there are also several quite obvious differences between the two. The most noticeable distinguishment involves the length of the poems. While Whitman's "Song of Myself" is quite lengthy, giving detailed and wordy descriptions, Dickinson's "This quiet dust was Gentlemen and Ladies" is much more concise and to the point. While Whitman tends to leave little to the imagination, Dickinson uses very few, carefully selected words, forcing the reader contemplate the meaning of the poem and create his own image of the scene being described. Another outstanding difference between these poems is the rhyme scheme and meter used. Whitman's poem contains no obvious meter or rhyme, but is written freely and without any apparent structure. Dickinson, on the other hand, uses an abcbdefe slant rhyme scheme, as well as an obvious meter.

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Without a doubt, the styles of writing used by Dickinson and Whitman in these poems contain several differences.
Certainly, by studying these two poems, one can detect several obvious similarities and differences between the two. While the poems are extremely alike in the messages they present, they are as different as can be in other ways. Surely both of these authors will forever be remembered for their contributions to the American literature of the 1800's and to the poetry of today.
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