Dickinson Vs. Whitman Essay, Research Paper
Dickinson vs. Whitman
After receiving five years of schooling, Walt Whitman spent four years
learning the printing trade; Emily Dickinson returned home after receiving
schooling to be with her family and never really had a job. Walt Whitman spent
most of his time observing people and New York City. Dickinson rarely left her
house and she didn’t associate with many people other than her family. In this
essay I will be comparing Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.
Emily Dickinson’s life differs greatly from the life of Walt Whitman,
although they lived during the same time period. Walt Whitman published
practically all his poetry during his lifetime, but Emily Dickinson only
published seven of her poems during her lifetime. Actually, her poetry wasn’t
published until after her death. Both Whitman and Dickinson were poetic
pioneers because of the new ideas they used in their poetry. Emily Dickinson
did not write for an audience, but Walt Whitman wrote for an audience about
several national events. The forms each poet used are different as well. The
rhyme in the poetry by Whitman is drastically different from the poetry written
by Dickinson, because Whitman didn’t use any rhyme.
Emily Dickinson grew up in Amherst, Mass, and Walt Whitman grew up in
New York City, New York; this is one way that these poets’ lives differ. The
main people that influenced Emily Dickinson were Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily
Bronte. Walt Whitman was influenced by many people, some of which were: Elias
Hicks, James Macpherson and William Shakespeare. Whitman read many book reviews
by many people; from these, he realized Emerson was very influential. Whitman
was also influenced by the Bible, his walks in New York City, Tom Paine, and a
strong love for music. After Whitman started preparing to be a poet, he said he
was merely “simmering,” but the ideas of Emerson brought him to a “boil.”
Dickinson wasn’t addressing anyone in particular through her poetry, but Whitman
addressed the citizens of the United States, most of the time, through his
writings. After reading “The Poet” by Emerson and seeing how he defined the
role of the poet in democracy, Whitman was eager to assume that role. Whitma n
loved to have his picture taken and there are many pictures of him. Dickinson
only allowed her picture to be taken once and did so reluctantly. Neither
Dickinson nor Whitman got married, but both had people interested in them or
people they were interested in. Emily Dickinson started writing poetry in 1850,
but most of her poems are dated after 1858. Whitman wrote for many newspapers
before he actually began writing poetry. The world found out he wrote poetry
when he published the first edition of Leaves of Grass. The major turning point
for Whitman was in the 1860’s, when his work started to gain more recognition
from critics. Eighteen sixty-two was the major turning point for Dickinson’s
life; 1862 was when she wrote most of her poetry. She was writing about one
poem each day. During the year 1862, the man Emily Dickinson loved left for San
Francisco. After he left, she started wearing only white, and during the last
ten years of her life she didn’t leave the comfort of her home. The last y ears
of Walt Whitman’s life were spent revising and writing poetry. Emily Dickinson
stayed very close to her family, but Walt Whitman traveled and lived alone
toward the end of his life.
The forms that Dickinson and Whitman used are also different because
both used new and innovative ideas in writing their poetry. Walt Whitman used
no real form other than free verse. The characteristics of free verse are: 1)
No rhyme or rhyme scheme, 2) Has a cadence or beat, 3) No set line length, 4)
Has stanzas, but no set stanza length, 5) Uses repetition. Whitman’s use of
free verse marked a break in the syllable-stress tradition. In his poetry he
didn’t count the syllables stresses, or feet, in the long lines of poetry.
Whitman used the item of anaphora, which is the use of repetition at the
beginning of back to back verses, and the repetition of syntactical units.
Walt Whitman was a 20th-century innovator of poetry because he used nonmetrical
prosody. Whitman got most of the techniques of writing poetry from biblical
verses. He often used parallelism like in the Psalms. Parallelism is the use
of phrases, clauses, or sentences that are similar or complementary in structure
and mean ing. Whitman often used regular metrical sequences but the lines
cannot be measured by the graphic method of marking syllables and feet. The
following lines from the poem “Out of the Cradle” should portray the slow
lengthening of lines and the sudden diminution of the line length. The lines
also show the repetition of the word carols and the alliteration of the s sound.
He also used falling rhyme in the words “lagging,” “yellow’” and “waning”:
Shake out carols!
Solitary here, the night’s carols!
Carols of lonesome love! deaths carols!
Carols under that lagging, yellow, waning moon!
O under that moon where she droops almost down
into the sea!
O reckless despairing carols.
The following lines from “Beat! Beat! Drums! ,” include parallel phrases,
sentence structures and meaning:
Beat! beat! drums! – blow! bugles! blow!
Make no parely – stop for no expostulation,
Mind not the timid -mind not the weeper or prayer
Mind not the old man beseeching the youngman.
In nearly all of Emily Dickinson’s poetry there is the use of quatrains
of three iambic feet, that is four lines of poetry to a stanza, where each line
has an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, three times. The
early poems by Dickinson are conventional in sentiment and in form. She used
many forms in her poetry, but the forms she used had a twist from the normal
because she would make them more complex and altered the metrical beat.
Dickinson did this to fit her thought. Dickinson also started the wide use of
The subjects that Whitman and Dickinson used in their poetry are very
different. There is a big difference because the things that each poet was
interested in. Whitman often wrote about the Civil War. Dickinson often wrote
about death and nature. The punctuation is drastically different as well.
Whitman used mostly traditional punctuation in his poetry, but in the poem
“Beat! Beat! Drums!” he used a big amount of dashes: “Beat! beat! drums!-blow!
bugles! blow! Through the windows-through the doors-burst like a ruthless
force.” Dickinson used a form of punctuation unique to her poetry as well as
capitalization. She used irregular capitalization to emphasize certain words
for example, in the poem “This is My Letter to the World,” she capitalized the
words, World, Me, News, Nature, Majesty, Message, Hands, Her, and Sweet. She
did this because those things were important to her.
Walt Whitman’s and Emily Dickinson’s lives were very different, although
they lived during the same time period. Each poet chose to be around certain
people and things. Those people and things they chose to be around greatly
influenced their poetry. The forms and subjects are different because they
liked writing about things that happened in their lives. They are both
innovators in poetry because they chose to change common things in writing