Study Guide

As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life Man and the Natural World

By Walt Whitman

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Man and the Natural World

Nature plays a big part in "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life." At the beginning, the speaker finds himself on a shoreline, staring into the sea and then into the fields that border it. Both these aspects of nature lead him to begin considering how all of life is like one big ocean, and he's just a small part within this ocean. And as he continues to wander in the great outdoors, he sees what the tide has brought in. This too, he realizes, is a symbol for all of life. He and everyone else are at the whim of nature, and we're also part of it.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What does the ocean represent to the speaker? How do we know?
  2. Does the speaker's relationship to nature change throughout the poem? How?
  3. How does the speaker's concept of God fit into nature? Is this deity part of nature or outside of it?
  4. What, ultimately, does the speaker think about humanity and its relationship to the natural world? How do you know?

Chew on This

The speaker sees himself in nature, but that doesn't mean he doesn't also think of himself as an individual.

Sometimes the speaker views nature as a critical voice, but usually he thinks of nature as something larger than just one entity.

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