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Analysis


Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay

Form and Meter

The poetic form of the dirge comes out of the early Christian Church when Christians would say morning prayers for, among others, the dead. But the poetic form came to mean any mournful song for th...

Speaker

The speaker of “O Captain! My Captain” is super-fanboy #1. He’s got all the trading cards, is president of the fan club, and even has an old piece of gum that the captain once chewed. Of cour...

Setting

This poem is set on a ship that’s coming into harbor. Of course, for Whitman, this was much more than a ship. This was the U.S.S. America he was talking about (for more on the importance of the s...

Sound Check

Whitman didn’t write many poems that rhymed. He certainly stopped trying to write rhymed verse by the time he published his first edition of Leaves of Grass. Even in this poem, his rhymes vary fr...

What's Up With the Title?

To get the obvious out of the way first, the title—“O Captain! My Captain!”—is indeed the first four words of the poem. More than that, though, you should know is that the title is what’s...

Calling Card

While “O Captain! My Captain!” isn’t very typical of Whitman, with its use of rhyme and stricter use of meter, there are a few elements that make it unmistakably Whitman-ian. To be exact, the...

Tough-o-Meter

With the exception of some tricky words like “rack” and “keel,” the language is pretty straightforward. Although the syntax (the word order) is shifted around a bit to make the poem rhyme,...

Trivia

When Whitman saw that the editors of the Saturday Press had changed his punctuation in “O Captain! My Captain!,” he tore it out and mailed it back to them pointing out their editorial “perver...

Steaminess Rating

The speaker and the captain have a serious bond that shouldn’t be brushed aside as simply one of respect. The speaker really seems to love this captain. This doesn’t mean that they were lovers,...

Allusions

The assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (the whole poem)
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