Study Guide

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd Perseverance

By Walt Whitman

Perseverance

Those perennial lilacs in "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" remind us of life's perseverance and fertility (not to mention a pretty sweet gardening set-up). The bustling cities and hardworking folks in America also remind us of life's continuance and the American spirit that perseveres, even in the face of hard times. The sun, the stars, even the thrush chilling out on his lonesome in the swam—all of these reminds us that the world goes on, no matter what.

Questions About Perseverance

  1. How many different signs of perseverance can you spot in the poem? Are they any different from one another? Why or why not?
  2. In what ways does the speaker use the lilacs as symbols of life's perseverance? Why is the act of "covering" death with lilacs so symbolic of perseverance? 
  3. How does the motif of unity contribute to the poem's theme of perseverance? 
  4. How does the speaker himself appear to persevere despite his grief? Is he transformed at all by the end of the poem because of his perseverance? How so?

Chew on This

Lilacs and perseverance go together like apple pie and hot dogs, in terms of their constant reminders of the enduring American spirit.

One nation under Walt: unity is an essential to the perseverance of America and the nation's people in Whitman's poem.

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