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What Is the Extended Metaphor in 'O Captain, My Captain'

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O Captain! My captain is a poem composed by the American poet Walt Whitman who is called the bird of democracy. Most of his works reflect his ideas about women's rights, immigration laws, and labor issues. This poem in particular is an elegy written after the death of former American president Abraham Lincoln. Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!" stands as a testament to the profound impact that poetry can have in capturing the collective emotions and mourning the loss of a beloved leader, as demonstrated by the elegiac tribute to President Abraham Lincoln in this poignant poem.

Background of the poem: The united states of America are now one of the most democratic countries in the world and they are leading in almost everything. This upgraded nation was once a place of slavery. In the 1800s people in the USA used black people as slaves. Slavery was at its peak in some states of the USA in those days. Though some of the presidents tried to avoid slavery they were not able to accomplish it as nearly 11 states supported it. These 11 states were the confederate states of America and the rest was called the united states of America. Confederate states had their own flag. They supported slavery and required slaves to serve and they never wanted black people to live free. They suppressed and oppressed black people. Abraham Lincoln was the 16th president of the United States. His works were mainly against slavery and he works towards the abortion of slavery. His efforts have never gone in vain. Finally in 1865, Abraham Lincoln won and he abolished slavery in the entire nation. It was a celebration moment and the people welcomed it wholeheartedly. They are celebrating it but success is never sought without sacrifice. Abraham Lincoln was killed by a confederate member. Walt Whitman who never met Abraham Lincoln in his life was very much inspired by his work so he composed this poem to give him a tribute.

The theme of the poem: Three main themes of this poem is Admiration, patriotism, and suffering. Abraham Lincoln fought for slavery, fought for racism so Walt Whitman admire Abraham Lincoln through this poem and that's why admiration is one of the themes of this poem. Walt Whitman also beautifully expressed the theme of patriotism. The last theme is suffering because, in this poem, the poet expressed how black Americans suffer for their right, and what difficulties Abraham Lincoln had to face Throughout racism.

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In this poem, the poet shows Abraham Lincoln as the ship captain and the ship was nothing but the United States that finally reached the shore which is the abolition of slavery. And for that people are celebrating on the shore seeing the sheep ending its journey. But they don't know the captain is lying cold and dead on the ship. It's a metaphorical poem. Because here in this poem American civil was is referred to as the fearful trip and the ship is referred to as the United States of America that withstood every storm which is the civil war and finally reached the shore that refers to the abolition of slavery and becoming the one completing nation and the captain refers to Abraham Lincoln.

This poem comprises three stanzas. The poet uses free verse while writing this poem and for this reason, the lines of the poem do not rhyme at all.

In the first stanza, the poet shouts with great excitement to the ship's captain that they are finally reaching home. The trip came to a successful end. The ship is near the port after surviving all the storms and difficulties during the journey. The eyes of all the people standing on the shore are fixed upon this brave and daring sheep. But soon the poet notices that the captain of the sheep, Abraham Lincoln is lying cold and dead on the deck of the sheep. Poet is full of sorrow at the death of the captain.

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What Is the Extended Metaphor in ‘O Captain, My Captain’. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 4, 2024, from
“What Is the Extended Metaphor in ‘O Captain, My Captain’.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
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