“O Captain! My Captain!” Essay [Allegory, Allusion, Repetition]

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

O Captain! My Captain!’ is an allegorical poem written by Walt Whitman. The poem is one of the best-extended allegorical poems. Among the significant poetic concepts and literary devices that make his poem exceptional are the sound of words (a combination of words to reveal a special effect when we read them) and allusion (allegory, referring to something in an indirect manner, without using words that signify that one has made any direct reference). In this essay, “O Captain! My Captain!” shall be reviewed and analyzed.

Moreover, he extensively incorporates imagery (vivid language that evokes mental images or generates ideas) and rhyme (words having different sounds but with endings that sound alike) to make the poem more allegorical. Extensive use of poetry concepts has made people have an in-depth understanding of the poem in reference to Abraham Lincoln, the American president.

In essence, the allusion in “O Captain! My Captain!” refers to Abraham Lincoln. Whitman wrote the poem in the year 1865, the same year that Lincoln died. Captain is an allusion to the president, Abraham Lincoln, while the ‘ship’ (Whitman 1) is an illusion to the United States. The ‘fearful trip’ (Whitman 1) is an illusion to the troubles that the Americans including the president have to go through during the American Civil War while the phrase ‘some dream that on the deck, fallen cold and dead’ (Whitman 2) is an illusion to Lincoln’s assassination.

This implies that the poem is an illusion to Lincoln’s assassination during the American Civil War, a time when Americans were troubled and feared that they would die because of the war.

We get to know more about the assassination and the era through imagery, which incorporates three senses, sound, touch, and sight. Sight is in the second part of the first paragraph, the second line, ‘O bleeding drops of red’ (Whitman 1). One gets to envision the Captain bleeding and wonder what could have caused the bleeding.

This makes us realize someone hurt the Captain, Lincoln, which leads to the irony in the poem. In the second paragraph, the second line of the first part, there is sound imagery ‘the bugle trills’ (Whitman 2). This makes one imagine how joyful people were. Even though he was dead, people were grateful to Lincoln for helping them end the civil war, and that is why they held him highly. Thus,allegory in “O Captain! My Captain!” is clearly evident

One of the imagery incorporating touch is in the third paragraph, the first part, the second line ‘he has nor pulse not will’ (Whitman 3). This makes one realize the sadness of the poet as well as the people. Someone has to feel Lincoln’s pulse to ascertain that he is dead. It is unbelievable that he will never be the president even though he has helped Americans deal with the war.

The poem makes use of internal rhyme to maintain a steady rhythm. In line three ‘the port is near, the bells I hear’ (Whitman 1), and in the twentieth line ‘from fearful trip, the victor ship’ (Whitman 3), the poem exhibits an internal rhyme that enables the poem to have a joyful, quick and upbeat rhythm. Special syntax structure that features parallelism in lines adds to the tone of the poem

This exhibits excitement, and we get to know that the poet is speaking about how people are excited that they have won the civil war. However, when the poet is talking about sullen and sad moments, he interrupts the poem’s rhythm and redirects the attention of the reader.

To emphasize the shock of finding out that the Captain, Lincoln is dead, the poet makes sure that in each paragraph, the first part has a distinct rhyme scheme pattern. Nevertheless, as the analysis essay on “O Captain! My Captain!” shows, in the second part of each section, the rhyme scheme changes and focuses on the mood that reveals that the captain, Lincoln, is dead. For instance, in the first paragraph, the rhyme is AABB. However, in the second part, the rhyme takes a different direction CDEF

The poet also makes used of words and their sounds to communicate to the audience. In line one and nine, the repetition of the phrase ‘O Captain! My Captain’ (Whitman 2) is used to reveal that the captain’s death, immensely shocked the poet. In addition, at the end of every paragraph, the phrase ‘fallen cold and dead’ (Whitman 2) is repeated.

This emphasizes how difficult it is for people, including the poet, to believe that Lincoln is already dead. The repetition in “O Captain! My Captain!” reveals intense sadness and a hidden wish, the wish that Lincoln was alive. As explained, all the major poetry concepts used by Whitman, including the sound of words, allusion, imagery, and rhyme, helps us to understand the poem better in the form of a poem based on an extended metaphor.

Works Cited

Whitman, Walt. O Captain My Captain. Poetry Foundation, 2011. Web.

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Plato and the Allegory of the Caves Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

The parable of the cave is a philosophical argument by Plato depicting the dilemma what human life is and what it means. In his vivid presentation, human beings live imprisoned in a cave throughout their lives, unable to see the world around them as they are chained in such a way as to prevent them from turning round.

There is a distant fire above and behind them, so they cannot move up or backwards. Furthermore, ahead of them, there is a wall that blocks their path. The bottom line is that movement is very limited in this cave. Occasionally, the carriers of the objects speak to one another, but their voices reach the prisoners in form of echoes from the wall ahead of them. Since they are not able to see who is speaking, they are convinced that the echoed voices are from shadows they see ahead of them.

With time, the prisoners begin to interpret the images and sounds they see and hear as constituting reality. The more they become accustomed to this world of illusion, the more it gets difficult to dissuade them to see what reality actually is. After observing the shadows keenly for a while, they get used to the pattern of movement, and whoever correctly predicts the shape that will pass next is applauded as being knowledgeable (Plato 90).

The analogy of the cave explains why many humans find the world of fantasy too comfortable for them to contemplate leaving it. They would rather live in illusions than face the truth, which is too much to bear. The cave idea is born of the fact that we go through cultural assimilations, and our characters are shaped by the environment we live in.

Therefore, it becomes extremely difficult, if not impossible, to get out of such conditioning and adopt a broad mind that can appreciate other dynamics of life. This is what creates the “shadow people” who cannot move their head around and appreciate the outside world in totality (Plato 90).

The only way a prisoner can get out of the cave is through an emancipation of the mind from such mental slavery. This is a herculean task because their path is constrained by the fire behind them, the wall all around the cave and the chain to their limbs. The prisoners who are set free to explore the world will find themselves in a culture shock.

They will find most of the practices and beliefs of their fellow human beings from other socializations too strange and unacceptable (Benjamin, 67). If they are shown the objects that cast the shadows, they would believe the objects are a fictional creations of some very great mind. Their reality is the shadows and nothing else.

Things are much worse when the prisoner is actually taken out of the cave to sunlight. This is a move to greater levels of intellectual capability where one can distinguish between objects of reality and fiction with utmost clarity. According to Fullerton, “the eye is unusual among the sense organs in that it needs a medium, namely light, in order to operate” (56). The light must, however, be of medium intensity.

If it is too bright, especially when one has just moved from darkness, the eye experiences too much pain to bear and would either close or the person would turn around to avoid looking at the source. If it is too little, the human being will not see clearly and end up with an optical illusion. This is applicable to the intellectual eye as well. The prisoner who leaves the cave rather absorbs a little of the changes at a time than takes in everything in one swoop.

With time, however, the culture shock waves of honeymoon, negotiation, adjustment and mastery phases. In the honeymoon phase, the practices in the new environment are amusing, and a person links them romantically to his/her own culture. After the prisoner has made enough observations, he begins to get used to the culture and actually begins to love it. The most interesting part of the whole cycle is a reverse culture shock.

The prisoner begins to scorn at his/her own former culture which he found difficult to shed off. In other words, if the prisoner leaves the bright light of the sun and goes back to the cave, he will find it too dark for him to see his way around. Walking in the cave is difficult – he falters and even steps on people’s toes trying to walk. His former society begins to take note and you hear comments to the effect that he dropped his cultural orientation and his people’s way of life and exchanged it with the ways of foreigners.

However, Plato argues that we should not be quick to pass judgment on such a disoriented person before we discern the exact cause of the disillusionment (Dova 67). The whole idea of education is about pointing the student in the right direction to acquire knowledge by relying on the strength of his or her mental capabilities. Plato argues that it is the intellect that can understand the realities of the world, not the senses.

Works Cited

Dova, Benjamin. The Trial and Death of Socrates: Four Dialogues. Grand Rapids, MI: Discover Publishers, 1992. Print.

Fullerton, George Stuart. An Introduction to Philosophy. Scotts Valley, California: CreateSpace Publishers, 2011. Print.

Plato. Apology: Crito and Phaedo of Socrates. Charleston, South Carolina: Bibliobazaar Publishers, 2007. Print.

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Use of allegory of Civilization versus ‘barbarism’ and violence Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

The film “Dona Barbara” employs allegory to portray two worlds. The novel is set in the 1940s Venezuelan transitional period. During this time, the country was experiencing a new culture and way of life brought about by the discovery of oil.

As such, an oil economy was starting to emerge, bringing with it an urban culture. The emergence of urbanism set the pace for a conflict between modern civilization and barbarism. This conflict is neatly depicted through allegory. Therefore, the film can be seen as both a national as well as a literary allegory.

In “Dona Barbara”, the conflict is signified through a number of allegorical symbols, such as urban culture versus the rural, progressiveness against retrogressiveness, the law against the outlaw, masculinity versus femininity, rational thought against the irrational thought (passion and Freudian sexual desires), et cetera.

There are many critics of the film, each of whom has a varied version of the use of allegory. However, all the critics are in agreement that the use of allegory helps to clearly depict two oppositions not only in the film but also of the 1940s Venezuela. Thus, the film is seen as a way of confronting the old and the new cultures and the significant conflict that arises from this fusion. Allegory is not only used for literary sense but also for explicitly portraying the social cultural history of Venezuela.

The allegorical nature of the film is embedded in the film itself as seen in a number of symbols. Allegory is used to illustrate a transition between civilization and barbarism. The character, Dona Barbara, is seen as a synthesis not just of the two worlds, but also in transit between barbarism and civilization. She is an allegory of barbarism and a symbol of the uncultured woman of loose morals.

This is evident in her tendency to use the power of seduction to overpower men, a characteristic that has earned her the title, ‘the devourer of men’1. Still, Dona Barbara is seen as a representation of civility and decorum when she genuinely falls in love with Santos Luzardo2. She is seen as a child of the two worlds and a victim of the Venezuelan social cultural conflict. This transformation from bad to good is overshadowed by the general character of Dona Barbara, otherwise christened Barbarita (a homophone to barbarism).

The initial representation of Barbara as a simple girl is soon overshadowed by her transition to a gang leader who uses violence to achieve what she wants. This transition is translated in the Freudian perceptive that childhood sexual experiences determine adult behavior. Dona is a victim of child rape and violence and this transformation is thus seen as a way of reliving her childhood. Dona is thus the allegory of the Venezuelan woman who is a victim of the synthesis between civilization and barbarism.

The film is a good example on the use of literature to reflect on matters of social cultural and historical importance to a nation. Allegory is used to show a clear distinction between the Venezuelan historical conflict between law and lawlessness, and

  1. John King. Magical reels: a history of cinema in Latin America. (London: Verso, 2000). 49
  2. Juan Pablo Dabove. Nightmares of the lettered city: banditry and literature in Latin America. (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007). 271-280

the subsequent consequences. This country has always been torn between the old agrarian order (the rule of the law) and lawlessness (characterized by violence). This is portrayed in the Ilanera agrarian rural culture in which there is confusion between law and lawlessness.

The director of the film achieves this by intertwining cattle ranching (the allegory of agrarian law – civilization) and cattle rustling (the allegory lawlessness – barbarism) 2. Santos Luzardo, a civil gentleman, is also a symbol of the confusion between lawlessness and the rule of the law.

The judges (symbolic of lawfulness) rule against him, thereby denying him the ownership of his property3. Santos Luzardo’s acceptance of this rule is an indication that he does not necessarily see himself as a victim of the injustices as he is well aware of his violent past, a means through which he acquired his wealth. As such, literature is used to not only synthesis civilization and barbarism, but also to clearly depict Venezuelan social cultural historical struggles with lawlessness.

The film is a clear depiction of how literature can be used to illuminate not only the relevance of literary characters but also of reality. Allegory is a stylistic device employed by the director of this film to highlight the social cultural conflict in 1940s Venezuela, brought about by the emergence of urban civilization. It thus helps to portray the synthesis of the civility of modernity and the barbarism of the

  1. Juan Pablo Dabove. Nightmares of the lettered city: banditry and literature in Latin America. (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007). 271-280
  2. “Dona Barbara” directed by Fernando de Fuentes. (RTI Colombia) pre-1940s Venezuela. This synthesis is seen effectively through some characters like Barbarita, law, and gender, among others.


Dabove, Juan. Nightmares of the Lettered City: Banditry and Literature in Latin America. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007. 271-280

“Dona Barbara” directed by Fernando de Fuentes. RTI: Colombia.

King, John. Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America. London: Verso, 2000. 49

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Myths: Types of Allegory and Historical Periods Essay

September 21, 2021 by Essay Writer

Knowledge, Belief, Myth, and Religion

Myths are traditional stories that include specific knowledge about nature or humans. Myths are often discussed in religions because they also contain a certain belief in gods and wonderful forces. Beliefs and myths are related to each other, and they differ mainly in the form of representation. Myths and religion are related to each other because they try to answer the important questions for humans, such as the story of world creation, which is presented in myths and religious texts (Coolidge, 2001, p. 12).


Greek Myths

Myth 1: AchillesLiterature it’s found in:
Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
Myth 2: SisyphusLiterature it’s found in:
Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

Greek myths include the stories about heroes and gods associated with the world’s creation and development. Myths are associated with the struggles among gods and heroic actions of kings and gods’ children.

The pieces of literature are important to discuss the themes developed in the Greek myths from the modern point of view.

Physical Allegory Myths

Myth 1: AphroditeLiterature it’s found in:
Isabel Allende, Aphrodite
Myth 2: DaphneLiterature it’s found in:
Ovid, Metamorphoses

Physical allegory myths are associated with the idea of transformation and embodiment. Thus, Aphrodite often stands for love and beauty. Daphne is associated with the tragic story of love.

Ovid discusses the story of how Daphne was transformed into the laurel tree because of the tragic story of love. Allende discusses the story of Aphrodite as the embodiment of love. These pieces of literature are important to accentuate the associations of people associated with mythological characters.

Historical Allegory Myths

Myth 1: PriamLiterature it’s found in:
Homer, Iliad
Myth 2: CynortasLiterature it’s found in:
Pausanias’s Description of Greece

Historical allegory myths presented the stories related to the real places and people in the context of Greek mythology.

Priam and Cynortas were the kings of the Greek territories, and the pieces of literature represent the stories about their rule as myths. These works are important to discuss real historical events with references to their heroic nature.

Moral Allegory Myths

Myth 1:
Pyramus and Thisbe
Literature it’s found in:
William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Myth 2:
Eros and Psyche
Literature it’s found in:
Apuleius, Cupid, and Psyche

Moral allegory myths are focused on the moral issues and aspects of the relationships. They are important to demonstrate ways to find the right moral decisions.

These tragic myths discuss the themes of eternal love, trust, and morality. They help in leading people to the right decisions regarding their feelings and relationships.

Medieval and Renaissance Myths

Myth 1:
Venus and Adonis
Literature it’s found in:
William Shakespeare, Venus, and Adonis
Myth 2:
King Arthur
Literature it’s found in:
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights

The Medieval and Renaissance myths were based on the classical Greek myths and on the medieval stories, which discusses the ideas of knighthood (Trembinski, 2006, p. 58).

Theories of Enlightenment Myths

Medieval myths represented in stories are important to understand the chivalry laws followed in the society. Renaissance myths are based on rethinking the Greek scenarios in the context of imitating classical ideas and patterns.

Myth 1:
Literature it’s found in:
John Keats,The Fall of Hyperion
Myth 2:
Literature it’s found in:
John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”

Enlightenment myths are based on the Greek myths, but they provide the discussion of the Greek themes in the social and moral contexts. The main focus is on social rules and morality (Barnett, 2003, p. 12).

These pieces of literature are important to present the interpretation of the classical myths in relation to the traditions of the 18th-19th centuries.

Works Cited

Barnett, S. (2003). The Enlightenment and religion: The myths of modernity. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Coolidge, O. (2001). Greek myths. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Trembinski, D. (2006). Medieval myths, legends, and songs. New York, NY: Crabtree Publishing Company.

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