Study Guide

A Noiseless Patient Spider Spirituality

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This is another theme which Whitman confronts head-on. After all, he spends half the poem talking about the soul, which is a pretty spiritual concept. That said, Whitman always has trouble doing like other people, and his use of spiritual imagery is almost always totally different from the stuff you generally hear about in organized religion.

Questions About Spirituality

  1. Have you ever thought about what a soul would look like? Did this idea take you by surprise?
  2. How about the way a soul might act or feel? The speaker says that his soul is "musing, venturing, throwing." What three words might you associate with the (or your) soul?
  3. Whitman doesn’t mention religion, but, do you that think his vision of the soul fits in with religious ideas? Do you think anyone would be shocked by this comparison?
  4. Is there something especially spiritual about spiders? Could you write this poem about a dog? A ham sandwich? A dead walrus?

Chew on This

Comparing the soul to a spider is an insult to the idea of the soul. The comparison is part of a subtle assault on religious ideas.

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