Walt Whitman Research Paper

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As American poetry began to emerge and become more popular and respected in the mid nineteenth century, there were two luminaries that became known as the “mother and father” of American poetry. Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman were both extraordinarily talented writers and poets. Although writing during the same time period, Whitman and Dickinson had very different life styles, which was reflected in their differing styles of writing and composing. Walt Whitman was born in May of 1819 in Long Island, New York, and moved to Brooklyn at age four. His childhood was difficult due to a series of poor investments made by his father, leading to a tough economic situation for the family. He described his childhood as unhappy and restless. At age…show more content…
He experimented with a number of different writing styles in his early writing career, eventually developing a unique and unprecedented style never seen by his contemporaries. His poetry often lacked traditional rhyme and meter, earning him the title of “father of free verse”. The possibilities of poetic diction were widened by his use of colloquialisms, slang, and regional dialects, instead of implementing the stiff, scholarly language so often found in nineteenth-century writing. Whitman believed that everyday life and people were perfect subjects for poetry. He praised the beauty of the individual. This view was partially due to his strong beliefs in a democratic society; he imagined that the nation was made up of unique but equal individuals united as a single whole. For example, in “Song of Myself” he says, “I celebrate myself, and sing myself”. He also implemented long lists he referred to as “catalogs” into his poems. These lists were another way of demonstrating his dear democracy in action, with every item in the list holding equal weight; which is how he thought the people of America should be. Another literary device commonly used by Whitman was anaphora. Anaphora is when a writer begins several consecutive lines with the same word or phrase. In “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” the word “from” begins 8 consecutive lines. Whitman use of symbolism was very prevalent and effective as well. He referred…show more content…
She had a more traditional poetic style than Whitman, while still having very unique characteristics. Dickinson used very compact and forceful language in her poems. Her poems used short stanzas with short lines. Dickinson’s poems are complex and can be difficult to read or understand because she compressed substantial meanings into very few words. She devoted much of her work to exploring the relationship between an individual and God. Another characteristic of Dickinson was her habit of using long dashes to force a short pause and interrupt the meter. For instance, she uses long dashes in this stanza of “Hope is the thing with feathers”: “And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard— And sore must be the storm—That could abash the little Bird That kept so many warm—.” Most of her poems were composed of short stanzas such as this. Also, like Whitman, Dickinson used symbolism to a masterful degree. The best representation of symbolism in her poems are her numerous references to birds. Birds help Dickinson personify hope. An example of this is in “hope is the thing with feathers.” Dickinson also uses unusual capitalization in random parts throughout her poems. She used this capitalization to show emphasis on certain words that she felt necessary to highlight. In this stanza in “heaven is what I cannot reach” she capitalizes many different words throughout, “The Color, on the Cruising Cloud— The interdicted Land— Behind the

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