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The Spider

Symbol Analysis

This adorable arachnid is the title character of the poem. A description of its web-building dominates the first five lines, and its image lingers throughout the poem.

  • Line 1: The image of the quiet, hard-working spider drives the poem. Once we have the picture of the first stages of its web-building in our heads, the rest of the poem starts to fall into place. When the speaker describes the spider as "patient," that’s personification, since the speaker uses a human quality to describe a non-human thing.
  • Line 3: Whitman really want us to pick up on how isolated this spider is. When he describes the space around the spider as "vacant, vast," the alliteration of those two lines makes this stand out in our minds.
  • Line 4: Here, Whitman focuses our attention on the other important quality of the spider: the fact that he’s a hard worker. The repetition of the word "filament" matches with the repetition of the spider’s actions. The poem both describes and does the spider’s actions. Alliteration is key here, too. See how "forth filament, filament, filament" repeats the "f" sound four times? He really wants us to notice that repetition. Think about the sound of that "f," too. We know that the shooting web of the spider doesn’t make a noise that we can hear, but, if it did, it might be a rushing, hissing sound – like a long "f" repeated again and again. So, in just a few words, we get the description, the action, and the sound of the spider’s web spinning.

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