Study Guide

A Noiseless Patient Spider Exploration

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The theme "Exploration" is easy to pick out, since the spider and the soul both explore. This theme helps us to see the more positive aspects of the poem. There is a hopeful note here, especially at the end. Eventually the spider will start his web, and the soul will make contact with something across that vast ocean. Exploration is exciting, full of promise and hope – although it can also be boring, scary, and dangerous.

Questions About Exploration

  1. Do insects explore for the same reasons that humans do? Is it fair to say that a spider "explores" with its strings?
  2. Do you feel like you can explore spiritually, as well as physically? Is that what Whitman does here?
  3. In this poem, does the idea of exploration seem exciting and full of possibility, or more scary and desperate?
  4. Will the spider’s or soul’s explorations ever end? Are we talking about a journey from point A to point B here? Is Whitman describing an endless cycle?

Chew on This

By talking about the spider, and then about the soul, the poem suggests that spiritual exploration is more important than any physical trip we might take.

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