Theme Of O Captain My Captain

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Walt Whitman’s poem O Captain! My Captain! was written in memory of Abraham Lincoln. Walt served in the Civil War on the same side as Lincoln, the side that eventually won the war, the Union. Walt strongly admired president Lincoln and was greatly distraught when he assassinated. His distress led him to compose O Captain! My Captain! which he never expected to gain so much popularity. Looking back he said “I’m almost sorry I ever wrote that poem” in an attempt to explain how he thought the praise for it was unwarranted. Most people however, including myself, would argue that he’s just being too critical of his own work. The poem speaks for a number of people who all are feeling the same pain, but can’t seem to put it into words as beautifully as Whitman does. There are 3 themes that stick out in O Captain! My Captain! The first theme is quite obviously death. Like the death of Abraham Lincoln the death of the captain is abrupt and unexpected. One minute he is here leading the vessel and the next he is gone. The poem suggests even that if all things had a just ending that the captain would’ve safely sailed back to safety. Death however, prevents the captain from ever even seeing the shore. While most public figures’ death can be found heroic, the death of the captain is seen as just being a devastation. The death of the president was in fact devastating and for a while people couldn’t think of the legacy of Lincoln’s name, but instead all they could focus on was the

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