On Walt Whitman's Crossing The Brooklyn Ferry

788 words - 3 pages

One and the SameWalt Whitman asks himself and the reader of the poem, 'CrossingBrooklyn Ferry,' what significance a person's life holds in thescope of densely populated planet. The poem explores thedifficulties of discovering the relevance of life. The methodsthat helped Whitman grasp his own idea of the importance of lifeare defined with some simple yet insightful and convincingobservations. By living under and for the standards of others,a person can never live a fulfilling life. Distinguishingoneself from the mobs of society can be next to impossible whenevery other human is competing for the same recognition withtheir own similar accomplishments. The suggestion that Whitmanoffers as a means of becoming distinguished, or obtaining anidentity, is to live a life of self-satisfaction. Thepersuasive devices in 'Crossing Brooklyn Ferry' successfullycommunicate Whitman's own theory of breaking the molds ofsociety by living as a self-satisfying individual.What makes one person's life different from the next? Whitmanleaves the apprehension that the distinguishing characteristicsare few. Whitman informs the audience that he has lead the samelife as they, who lead the same life as their children will andtheir ancestors did. The poet questions the significance of aperson's achievements by asking, 'My great thoughts as Isupposed them, were they not in reality meagre [sic]?' It wouldbe hard for any person to measure their self-accomplishments onthe planetary scale which Whitman is speaking of. The secondverse of the poem introduces the metaphor of the world being a'simple, compact, well-joined scheme' with the people dissolvedinto the 'eternal float of solution.' Like themechanical'scheme' that Whitman refers to, much of the poemconsists of topics that possess a repetitive or mechanicalquality. Sunrises, sunsets, tides, seasons, circling birds, thedaily New York commute on the Brooklyn Ferry, and the cycling ofgenerations are woven into the poem. A substantial amount ofstanzas in the poem all begin with the same word. Thecontinuous use of repetitive imagery conveys the feeling thatour existence is in fact part of an infinitely moving machinethat has no purpose or destination. By using these devices,Whitman shakes his audience with the convincing notion that lifeas it is normally perceived is not important. To assist thesedevices, lines that bring sudden tension into the poem furtherdisturb the preconceptions of the audience: 'Closer yet Iapproach...

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