Test Your Knowledge of Walt Whitman's 'O Captain! My Captain!'

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Who is the subject of Walt Whitman's poem 'O Captain! My Captain!'?

A Union recruit

What is the significance of the sea imagery throughout the poem?

It alludes to Admiral Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar

What is the tone of the poem 'O Captain! My Captain!'?


Study Notes

Analysis of Walt Whitman's Poem "O Captain! My Captain!"

  • "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman was likely written before "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and was first published in The Saturday Press on November 4, 1865.
  • It was included in Whitman's book, Sequel to Drum-Taps, and later in the 1867 edition of Leaves of Grass, with several revisions made by Whitman throughout his life.
  • The poem is a metaphorical tribute to Abraham Lincoln, whom Whitman saw as the captain of the nation.
  • The poem's sentimentality has resulted in it being mostly ignored in English-speaking academia, except for literary critic Helen Vendler.
  • Vendler notes that the poem is told from the point of view of a young Union recruit, who considers Lincoln like a "dear father".
  • The American Civil War is almost over and "the prize we sought is almost won" with crowds awaiting the ship's arrival, but Lincoln is shot and dies.
  • The poem has imagery relating to the sea throughout, alluding to Admiral Nelson's death at the Battle of Trafalgar.
  • The metaphor of a ship of state has been often used by authors, and Whitman had previously used it in "Death in the School-Room".
  • The poem utilizes elements of war journalism, such as "the bleeding drops of red" and "fallen cold and dead".
  • Whitman earned money by selling autographed copies of "O Captain! My Captain!" in the late 1880s, and he often recited it during his lectures on Lincoln's death.
  • The poem has religious imagery, making Lincoln a "messianic figure" and absolving "the sins of America into a religio-sentimental, national family".
  • The poem encapsulates grief over Lincoln's death in one individual, the narrator of the poem, while also conveying a sense of triumph that the ship of state has completed its journey.

Do you know Walt Whitman's famous poem "O Captain! My Captain!"? Test your knowledge with this quiz that delves into the poem's history, symbolism, and themes. From its metaphorical tribute to Abraham Lincoln to its use of war journalism, this quiz will challenge your understanding of one of Whitman's most beloved works. Whether you're a literature buff or simply a fan of powerful poetry, this quiz is sure to be a thought-provoking experience.

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