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Analysis

The Soul

Symbol Analysis

Here’s the other half of the poem’s big comparison. In the last five lines, we switch over to the spiritual side, although the image of the spider remains important.

  • Line 6: Here’s where Whitman turns toward the soul. He introduces it by calling it directly by name, like you would a person. When you talk directly to an idea in a poem, it’s called an apostrophe. It’s an old poetic trick, and Whitman uses it. The use of the word "O" is common with this technique. Here, it’s used to make the soul a living, active presence in the poem.
  • Line 8: Just like he did with the spider, Whitman makes his soul an almost-human character. Now, this is a trickier example, since the soul might technically be part of a human being. Still, the way it muses, ventures and throws all by itself suggests that this is a personification of the soul.
  • Line 10: Whitman saves the best for last here. When he uses the word "gossamer," he pulls out a pretty spidery term. The gossamer thread makes us think of the spider’s strings, and it sews up the extended metaphor that is the whole point of this poem. Whitman never says, "My soul is like a spider," but the way he places these ideas next to each other, and the similarity in the descriptions, does the job just fine.

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