Phillis Wheatley, Date: 1775-6
Genre: neoclassical poetry
Intended Audience: George Washington
Tone: Hopeful, Optimistic,
Theme: Divine Right and Freedom: "freedom's cause," the colonies' struggle for freedom from England, which General Washington was assigned to lead. Wrote this in order to express her feelings and beliefs about being a patriot that believes in freedom
Literary Devices: Imagery, References to Greek Mythology,
Literary Analysis: Like many other residents of Boston, Wheatley's feelings for the British regime turned from obedient admiration to mild admonition, and finally, to support of the revolution. The poem anticipates the future for the new republic, and praises the efforts of its military leader and first president.Wheatley uses the 'Celestial Choir' as a poetical muse, which inspires the poet's (Wheatley's) writing. Beginning with lines 9 through 12, Wheatley provides a description of the 'goddess of Freedom.' The goddess comes down from heaven for the purpose of involving herself in the civil war between the colonists and Britain. The reference to 'olive branch' in the poem represents a symbol of peace. In subsequent lines, Wheatley uses the literary technique of simile, in which she compares the battle forces of America to the Greek forces of Eolus, king of the winds. The simile Wheatley uses prepares the reader for the references to military language used poetically (i.e., 'first in peace' to refer to Washington as the commander-in-chief of the army). By the end of the poem, Wheatley urges Washington to continue the objective of pursuing freedom for the colonists. She references the goddess of freedom as a guide for Washington. By the end, Wheatley suggests that Washington will win and become head of state.
Genre: educational informative
Intended Audience: President, congressmen, gentleman, Harvard students and sororities
Tone: motivational, informative
Theme: scholar duties, education, speech,
Literary Analysis: At the time, women were barred from higher education, and scholarship was reserved exclusively for men. Emerson published the speech under its original title as a pamphlet later that same year and republished it.The scholar is "Man Thinking." The remainder of the essay is organized into four sections, the first three discussing the influence of nature (paragraphs 8 and 9), the influence of the past and books (paragraphs 10-20), and the influence of action (paragraphs 21-30) on the education of the thinking man. In the last section (paragraphs 31-45), Emerson considers the duties of the scholar and then discusses his views of America in his own time.
Walt Whitman; Genre: Free Verse, Lyrical, unstressed and stressed syllables
Intended Audience: Anyone who appreciates Nature
Tone: Bored, and ill, conversational,
Theme: Nature vs. Man, appreciation for physically being in nature
Literary Devices: Repetition
Literary Analysis: The repeated use of lists in the first half of the poem is meant to symbolize the sense of boredom the speaker felt. Imagine a lecture being merely a long list of facts that you cannot follow and do not understand. Trying to pay attention to the lecturer could easily become a mind-numbing exercise. In this poem, Whitman uses the example of the astronomer to show the difference between academic learning and experiential learning. The speaker finds the astronomer's lectures stars and mathematical formulas to be boring. He does not feel any sort of connection to the subject matter until he goes outside and sees the stars for himself. Looking up at the night sky is not an experience that one can experience in a classroom, no matter how "learn'd" the teacher might be Whitman felt very strongly that experiencing life's marvels was the only real way to learn. In this poem, Whitman draws out the stark contrast between the speaker and the educated astronomer. Whitman writes the speaker's voice to emphasize the fact that he is not an academic. For example, he shortens "learned" to "learn'd" when describing the sophisticated professor. The speaker quickly grows bored while listening to the astronomer talk about theories and mathematical equations. The astronomer, however, represents a highly educated and refined class that has a more structured approach to learning. The speaker and the astronomer serve as foils to each other - characters who have opposite beliefs. The writer uses this disparity to highlight each individual's distinct characteristics.
**Similiar to his other poems he paints an image with his words
Henry David Thoreau; Date: written 1849, printed 1866 (after his death)
Genre: essay (originally a lecture)
Intended Audience: anyone who can read, common citizens, fellow abolitionists
Tone: persuasive, critical, cautionary
Theme: anti-establishment non-violent protest against the government
Literary Devices: frequent literary references (Shakespeare, Greek mythology, the Bible, other authors and poets)
Literary Analysis: "Resistance" is Thoreau's critique and commentary on the individual's right and duty to disobey unjust laws and abuses of power by the government. It is most critical of the institution of slavery and the Mexican-American War, both of which were extremely controversial. Thoreau emphasizes the individual's need to prioritize the conscience over the actual letter of the law. He argues that the government is useless and is controlled by the power of a majority, not necessarily by the truth or what is just and right. He wants to see as little government involvement as possible in all aspects of the daily life of common citizens. He says "That government is best which governs not at all"(843). Thoreau is very aware of the abuses of power in the government through social standing and financial means and calls the entire institution of government nothing but a tradition that needs to be drastically altered. He calls on everyone to speak up and speak out against injustices and to actively resist the abuses of power and fight for actual change. Thoreau essentially says that unjust laws exist and if we simply accept them and ignore them, they will always exist. People have to actively resist them, even if that means being punished (Thoreau was jailed for refusing to pay taxes in protest to the Mexican-American War). Thoreau is very critical of those who say that they oppose slavery and the war, but don't actually do anything about it. He infers that those people are just as bad as those who support those things and that even voting against injustice means little compared to actively resisting it on a daily basis through actions and words.
Intended Audience: Those in the North who opposed slavery, also those who were for slavery in south
Tone: Criticizing, Inspirational, Educational, Reserved
Theme: Slavery, Education, Family, Suffering,
Literary Devices: references to William Lloyd Garrison and Wendell Phillips
Literary Analysis: One of the purposes of "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is to relate a personal story about slavery and the way one man could rise above it and make something of himself, other purposes this text would have served, particularly during Fredrick Douglass' lifetime. Since he was one of the few ex-slaves who was given ample opportunity to speak publicly about his experiences, often to white audiences (who were generally abolitionists) this was also a way for him to get across the pure cruelty of slavery as an institution to a captive audience. A forum allowed him to speak directly to whites, particularly in the North, about what was happening in the South and the treatment the average slave was prone to. Look for examples of how Douglass might have used stories of slavery to influence those involved in the Northern abolitionist movement. The use of violence in "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass" particularly against women (rape) would be useful, especially considering his stories were being told to whites, including white women. Douglass's narrative can be called a more call of action to get people to help slavery, but Jacobs was more of a telling of her true story, not criticizing others
Frederick Douglass; Date:1852
Genre: Extract from abolition rhetoric
Intended Audience: Government, Northerners, and peers/friends
Tone: Optimistic, Humble, Patriotic, occasionally nervous then evolves into anger
Theme: Liberty and Independence
Literary Devices: Rhetorical Questions, Appeals to Ethos, pathos, logos, Religious References, Repetition
Literary Analysis: The fourth of july is a joyful day to White Americans, but a mockery to black people
He throughout the narrative uses the word your in order to create a clear separation between slaves and the free whites. He believes if slavery were to continue it would be the death of America. He uses religious language in order to attempt to reach a broader audience, in a means to convince as many people as possible. Believes our nation in hypocritical to celebrate freedom when not all are considered free. "The fourth of July is yours not mine" One of Douglass' critical points in the speech is the idea that America has become desensitized to its hypocrisy. For Douglass, this is what has become of White citizens in the North. A nation that eloquently articulated the condition of freedom against the British failed to acknowledge the same in the issue of slavery: "Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it." Given this reality, American citizens, especially those in the North, have lost a level of sensitivity to the issue. In the regaling of freedom in the 4th of July, Douglass suggests that American citizens have little ground to celebrate freedom, while the institution of slavery still exists. What is experienced by Northern and White American citizens cannot be experienced by those who are of color in America:
Nathaniel Hawthorne; Date: 1843
Genre: short fiction story
Intended Audience: anyone literate
Theme: science vs. nature, Transcendentalist influences (purity, perfection of natural world), male vs. female, criticism of patriarchy
Literary Devices: allusions to Biblical figures, mythology
Literary Analysis: Hawthorne's short story has echoes of mary Shelley's "Frankenstein: in its grim, gothic-influenced character study of the struggle between man and science.. Much of Hawthorne's works deal with a Puritan-influenced view that even good men and women are fallible and will drift towards sin. In "The Birthmark," Aylmer is a man driven by the need for knowledge and through that knowledge, control. He completely trusts his own intellect and scientific abilities to the point where he believe that he can control and change anything. This sets up the nature vs. science battle as he seeks to fis the "visible mark of earthly imperfection"(645) on his wife Georgiana's cheek. This Crimson Hand is the only thing that makes her imperfect and flawed in Aylmer's mind and he becomes obsessed with removing it no matter the risk. Hawthorne also suggests that this is a battle of the male-dominated patriarchy against women in that Aylmer will not be swayed or reasoned with despite Georgiana's protests and warnings. Science is portrayed as a masculine quality while Nature is that of innocence and femininity. Aylmer's servant, Aminidab, also warns against Aylmer's actions and can be seen as a representation of Nature itself in his rough, unkempt, primitive appearance and his warning against Aylmer's actions. There are frequent references to the Crimono Hand as a blemish, stain, mark, and curse, implying that is not only a physical imperfection to Aylmer, but also somehow a flaw in Georgiana's character. The imagery of an actual hand-shaped mark on georgiana's cheek implies that she was touched by some other-wordly entity. Her loyalty, trust, and purity of spirit towards Aylmer suggests that the mark is a blessing, while all Aylmer can see is a curse. This split between blessing/curse and God(good)/evil is what sets up Aylmer's fall. He shows the classic character trait of hubris and it is his arrogance and overconfident faith in his own abilities that results in his success at removing the birthmark, but ultimately killing the one person he loved. Man fails, Woman suffers and dies, Nature (Aminidab) laughs. Hawthorne seems to suggest that this is the inevitable outcome for those who try to improve on nature and what God has made. The emphasis on the natural world and the beauty and purity of nature show the Transcendentalist influences of Thoreau and Emerson who were contemporaries of Hawthorne.
Herman Melville; Date: 1853
Genre: Parable and Critique, First person point of view
Intended Audience: His literary peers
Tone: Confusion and Sadness
Theme: Business, Compassion, Curiosity, Isolation, Morality
Literary Devices: Illusions, Imagery,
Literary Analysis: Throughout this story, the limited first-person point of view of the narrator reveals more of his own values and motivation than those of Bartleby, whom he never fully appreciates or comprehends. Like yin and yang, the two form the necessary dichotomy of clerical worker and professional, just as Turkey and Nippers offset each other's propensities and idiosyncrasies. This motif of duality suggests the complementary nature of human beings, who must accommodate both points of view in order to comprehend life fully. The setting, an integral unit of the financial center of the United States, is actually Melville's own childhood neighborhood and also the general location of the Custom House, where he spent the last years of public service until his retirement. More important, the story chronicles the narrator's growing awareness of and sympathy for the difficulties inherent in human existence. For example, at the beginning of the story, the narrator describes himself as". . . a man who, from his youth upwards, has been filled with a profound conviction that the easiest way of life is the best." *This realization constitutes the beginning of the narrator's own true humanity, which continues to grow as he wrestles with his attempts to help Bartleby, which include taking Bartleby into his own household--all of which Bartleby rejects. Bartleby then becomes the catalyst of the narrator's spiritual growth. Before his experience with Bartleby, the narrator says that he had never experienced anything but "a not unpleasing sadness." His experience with Bartleby then engenders an understanding of "a common humanity." ++The narrator has, in effect, become a fully-rounded human being at this point, the only character in the story who represents spiritual and moral growth.In essence, then, it's likely that Melville is exploring both the human condition and how that condition can be altered by experience and human sympathy
Walt Whitman; Date: 1861
Genre: Free Verse Poem. Only the final line of each stanza falls into a specific meter; in this case, it's iambic heptameter, which adds to the pulsing, drum-like rhythm of the poem.
Intended Audience: Considered war propaganda, for Americans during the war,
Tone: Commanding,Harsh, Disarray, Chaotic, Lyrical the short, repeated syllables mimic the sound of drums beating and bugles blowing.
Theme: Patriotism, War
Literary Devices: Alliteration(B's), Repetition, Onomatopoeia
Literary Analysis: This poem uses the sound of drums and war in order to imitate the aggressive way the war is interfering in people's lives. Whitman wrote this poem at the beginning of the Civil War. He uses the drums and bugles as symbols of the war itself (during the wars of early American history, drums and bugles would signal the beginning of each battle). In this poem, the speaker commands the instruments to play so loudly that they disrupt everyone's lives, just like war changes a society. Whitman does not let his reader escape the incessant drumbeat and trumpeting bugles, just as there was no escaping the Civil War. War affects everyone and everything. Whitman invokes the environment of war without once mentioning soldiers. Through his use of literary devices, he creates a world in which he draws the reader in, just like the war draws people in.
Walt Whitman; Date:1865
Genre: Free Verse Pictorial/Lyrical Poem
Tone: Calm, also Ironic and contrasting, Ambivalent
Theme: Snapshot of post-war scene
Literary Devices: Repetition, Sensory Imagery ,
Literary Analysis: Whitman emphasizes the individual aspects of the men at the same time as he says they are all the same. This theme weaves throughout the poem. Armies are made up of faceless individuals. The poem depicts two different scenes The first picture is that of a cavalry unit winding its way to the river. The second picture, of the men entering and emerging from the river, has elements of individuation and distinctness in it. The poet renders a total picture by combining these elements and by giving them a graphic quality. he uses diction to help bring sound and movement to the poem. Examples of diction are words such as "clank" and "flutter". His word choice is what clearly moves the scene along and depicts a clear picture for the reader; hey wind betwixt green islands, / They take a serpentine course." This describes their movement as winding. Whitman uses the word "serpentine" to describe the course the calvary takes, which adds a curvy, flowing feel to the poem. He also uses "splashing" to add sound and movement to the water, and "clank" emphasizes the noisiness of the soldiers. Whitman writes, "The guidon flags flutter gayly in the wind." This alliteration draws attention to the movement of the flags.
Genre: Free Verse Poem, Narrative poem
Intended Audience: civilians
Tone: Suffering, faithfulness to duty, and developing compassion
Theme: Journey through a military hospital, To show pain and suffering on both sides of the war. Similar call to war just like beat beat drums! Change in tone from the beginning to start of poem--
Literary Devices: Nonlinear poem,
Literary Analysis: Constant flashbacks to the war, relisting a series of the poet's own memories . describing the suffering in the Civil War hospitals and the poet's suffering, faithfulness to duty, and developing compassion as he tended to soldiers' physical wounds and gave comfort. Published at war's end, the poem opens with an old veteran speaking, imaginatively suggesting some youths gathered about who have asked him to tell of his most powerful memories. The children request stories of battle glory, but the poet quickly dismisses these as ephemeral. He then narrates a journey through a military hospital such as Whitman experienced in Washington, D.C., during the second half of the war.
Emily Dickinson; Date:1861
Intended Audience: readers, fans
Theme: spontaneity, memories, interaction
Literary Devices: Each stanza of the poem is a short quatrain, four lines. Each line has a dimetric rhythm, meaning that there are two poetic feet in each line. Most lines have iambic feet, such as in the first stanza. Each line in the first stanza has two groups of two syllables with the second syllable of each group being accented. In the second and third stanzas there is less regularity. Several lines start with a trochee, a two syllable group with the first syllable being accented. The line, "To a heart in port," begins with a three syllable group, called an anapest. Despite the several irregularities, the poem flows smoothly and is easily recited.
The rhyme scheme in "Wild Nights" is typical of Emily Dickinson's poetry. In each stanza the second and fourth lines rhyme, though in the second stanza the rhyme is a good example of a near rhyme.
Literary Analysis: can be interpreted several different ways, but the most obvious interpretation is that the poem expresses love, passion, and sexual desire. The opening stanza certainly gives the modern reader the image of a passionate encounter between two lovers. The second and third stanzas are far more obscure, creating a metaphor for the ardent experience with ocean images and nautical terms. Emily Dickinson was masterful at being able to describe life's mysteries in imaginative ways with an economy of words.
While Thomas Wentworth Higginson, one of Dickinson's mentors, was preparing the first edition of her poems in 1890, he wrote to Mabel Loomis Todd, the co-editor: "One poemonly I dread a little to print - that wonder 'Wild Nights,' - lest the malignant read into it more than that virgin recluse ever dreamed of putting there. . . . Yet what a loss to omit it! Indeed it is not to be omitted."
The use of the word "luxury" in the first stanza probably refers to an old use of the word, meaning lust and gratification. The phrase "heart in port" in the second stanza can be interpreted as a lover's embrace. The marine terms used in each line of the second stanza create the nautical metaphor. They also create the feeling that control has been given up.
The third stanza completes the amorous, watery imagery. "Rowing in Eden" and "moor . . . in thee" can be interpreted as sexual passion. "Ah! The sea!"