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Thanatopsis

Thanatopsis

by William Cullen Bryant

The Ocean

Symbol Analysis

The ocean is another powerful and important representation of the natural world in this poem. The ocean in "Thanatopsis" is giant, scary, and a bit sad. That’s a big contrast to the shining golden sun, for example. It’s not part of the human world of death and fear, but still, it’s kind of dark.

  • Line 21: In this case the ocean seems almost comforting, since the speaker talks about its "embrace." Finally, though, all we’re talking about is another place where you won’t be after you die. The ocean is just another part of the natural world that’s going to outlast you, that will keep right on going after you die.
  • Line 43: "Old Ocean" sounds a lot like a person to us, a kind of subtle personification. We’re imagining someone like King Triton in The Little Mermaid or Poseidon, the Greek god of the ocean. Anyway, in this case the ocean is not a happy spot. It’s called a "gray and melancholy waste." It’s just a part of the giant tomb of the Earth. Bummer.

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