Study Guide

As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life Memory and the Past

By Walt Whitman

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Memory and the Past

Sometimes it's hard to revisit the past. While it might be nice to revisit old haunts and memories, sometimes being older means that you don't feel like the person you used to be. For the speaker of "As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life," going home unleashes plenty of memories, but also an identity crisis. He suddenly feels adrift in the world, unsure of who he really is and why he's here. This blast-from-the-past isn't all bad, though; ultimately, facing the past helps him realize a few key truths about his life.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. How do we know the speaker is in his hometown?
  2. What role do the speaker's parents play? Are they really his parents, or do they represent something greater? How can you tell?
  3. How does being home in Paumanok help the speaker learn about who he really is?

Chew on This

This poem shows us that going home means that you have to confront who you used to be.

Actually, the past doesn't bother the speaker nearly as much as the future does.

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