From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
A Noiseless Patient Spider

A Noiseless Patient Spider


by Walt Whitman

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

We don’t get a lot of help with the actual setting of this poem. In fact, the only place we hear much about is "a little promontory." Thanks a bunch, Walt – that makes everything clear. But, maybe because he doesn’t give us much help with the setting, this allows us to imagine a new setting which would fit the mood of this poem. So, bear with us here, because we think this poem could easily take place in the middle of outer space. Seriously.

In the first half of the poem, he tells us about the spider and the "vacant vast surrounding" (line 3). In the second half, he imagines his soul surrounded by the "measureless oceans of space" (line 7). So, just think of that spider marooned on an asteroid, trying desperately to reach out and grab something. Then, think of Whitman stuffed into a space suit (beard and all) and cartwheeling through empty space, trying to grab onto something. Then, all of a sudden, a huge alien octopus… sorry, we’ll try not to nerd out here. The bottom line is: we think this poem is as much about isolation, empty spaces, and the absence of a setting, as it is about being in a particular place or time.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...