Study Guide

As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life Identity

By Walt Whitman

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Who are you? Are you the self that feels proud of your achievements and successes, or the self that sometimes thinks those achievements are just silly, or not good enough? Are you the self that exists in memories of your childhood home, or the one that exists in the future? Are you the version of yourself that has tons of doubts about the universe and their place in it, or the version that feels pretty sure of where they are going and what they are doing on this planet? Well, chances are you are both of these selves, all at once. That's essentially what the speaker of "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life" finds out. Ultimately, he comes to a pretty clear conclusion about what makes us…us.

Questions About Identity

  1. How can we tell that the speaker has doubts about his identity? In which part of the poem do these doubts appear?
  2. In what ways does the speaker use the ocean as a metaphor for self?
  3. With what other objects does the speaker identify? How does he identify with them?
  4. What conclusions does the speaker ultimately formulate about his own identity? What helps him reach these conclusions?

Chew on This

The speaker feels like nature is just another part of his identity—so much so that he even sees himself in piles of trash on the beach.

Since he calls himself a poet and says he's from Long Island, the speaker is very likely meant to be none other than Whitman himself.

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