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Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

by Walt Whitman

Friendship Theme

Walt Whitman wants to be friends with you. He's the kind of guy who walks into a coffee shop and shakes everyone's hands and tries to strike up a conversation with other customers. Just notice how much apostrophe he uses: "You [...] you […] you." He's the ultimate literary extrovert. He even wants to be friends with non-human things, like the clouds and those "faithful solids and fluids" of the world. He uses a variety of specific rhetorical tactics to make this happen. In its emphasis on friendship, bordering on obsession, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" is very representative of most of Whitman's work.

Questions About Friendship

  1. Did the poem make you want to be friends with the speaker, or did he seem too aggressive or even desperate?
  2. Would the speaker's friends be offended if they knew he spoke just as enthusiastically about loving animals and non-living things as he is about humans? Does he water down the idea of friendship by including these things?
  3. Is the speaker more open with his expressions of affection than we are today?
  4. What does Whitman mean when he compares normal people to actors and actresses? Do we have to put on an act to have friends and be in public?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker of the poem thinks that people can never truly speak their deepest thoughts and must put on an act, even with friends and family. He doesn't find anything wrong with this.

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