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Walt Whitman’s Usage of Literary Devices in the Poem, A Noiseless Patient Spider

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“A Noiseless Patient Spider” Explication

“A Noiseless Patient Spider” is a poem written by Walt Whitman emphasizing on those seeking meaning and goals by going out in the world to explore. Throughout this poem, alliteration, figurative language, and imagery are used as literary devices to portray the theme. The author conveys that patience and perseverance do not always act as stepping stones to achieve goals and to find oneself.

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Whitman uses imagery in the first stanza to focus on the mood. The speaker describes, “A noiseless patient spider, / I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated”. This reveals that the spider is lonely as it stands away from everything else. The image of standing isolated creates a gloomy mood as the spider remains alienated from the rest of the world. These actions display the patience of the spider because despite how unloved and lonely it is, it continuously stays in the same area with no progress towards being accepted. Whitman also states, “launch’d forth filament…Ever wheeling them… tirelessly”. The spider’s actions come together to create a desperate mood as it is constantly attempting to expand its web to go out and explore the world. Nonetheless, its isolation constrains it from truly experiencing life, thus creating a desperate mood. Perseverance is shown through the activities of the spider because it is consistently trying to go past its limits.

Alliteration is used in the first stanza to cause readers to be attentive to the overall image being created. The speaker says, “it stood isolated, / Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding”. Whitman is using the alliteration of “v” to make readers focus on how isolated the spider is.The emphasis put on the two v’s causes readers to have more compassion and concern for the spider. The spider being solitary creates an empty image in the minds of the readers.This manifests patience because despite being ostracized, the spider still remains in the area waiting for change. Another example of alliteration is, “launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,/ Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly”. The alliteration of “F” gives a hiss-like noise, which is what a web shooting out would most likely sound like. The repetition of “E” shows how frequent the spider has tried to spin a web in its small area even though it does not reach its goals in trying to break free of isolation. This example portrays how much effort the spider always puts in, but never gets the same outcome.

In the second stanza, the author uses figurative language as a tool to give the work a deeper meaning. The speaker states, “and you O my soul where you stand, / Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space”. He introduces his soul in this stanza and begins to compare himself to the spider by using it as a metaphor. They are both standing in an empty area and just like the spider, readers can infer that the speaker not well liked and is lonely, which limits him from finding his identity. Then, the speaker continues by describing, “Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O, my/ soul”. This is a metaphor for all the speaker’s efforts that may or may not pay off someday. It ties the entire plot and meaning of the poem together as he shows that despite one’s best efforts, things may not reciprocate.

Although it is not explicitly stated, all the imagery, alliteration, and figurative language truly give readers the opportunity to come to the conclusion that the speaker is the spider. He speaks not only for himself, but for many others around the world as he pours his struggles out in hopes of finding his true identity. As the poem continues, the speaker fails to achieve his goal and identity. However, there are always goals met and unmet; there are always identities found and lost in the world. Perhaps it is the way things are meant to play out, so that greater things can happen.

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