Honoring the President Lincoln in Walt Whitman's O Captain My Captain
President Lincoln‘s noble stand against slavery in the United States union won him much respect and admiration his despite the fierce opposition of the confederacy to maintain the institution to dehumanize Africans and keep them captive. Social activist, Jane Addams and writer, Walt Whitman expressed the utmost reverence and gratitude for the falling president, and his unpopular sacrifice. The prophetic message that Lincoln delivered in 1858 entitled “A House Divided” still rings true even in these modern times in the 21st-century. The Aquarian 16th President of the United States had a prophetic vision far beyond the reach of his lifetime. Something within the destiny of Lincoln anointed him with the insight to sense that change would be on the horizon in the New World, and that the way things were would never be the same. Ironically, America had just gained her independence from Britain under the yoke of monarchy, but ended up mimicking her “Mother country”, Great Britain by holding human lives in captivity.
Many pro-slavers were happy to be free of Britain’s grip, but justified their cruelty to black slaves by failing to admit to themselves that these Africans were not only humans, but the first humans on the planet which gave birth to their own race and all humanity! It was never stated that Lincoln held sentiment towards blacks, but he definitely knew that African slavery should become obsolete due to economic purposes and the fact that there was a “big elephant” in the Union which divided Americans between pro-slavers and abolitionist in which inspired “A House Divided” speech. Lincoln stated that he did not see the union falling but going one way or the other in a unified decision to go forward together and expand as a country. Due to being a politician, Lincoln never confessed to care about black slaves, but he had a vested interest in the economics of the north and used that as his excuse to take a stand in the name of pro-capitalism. Jane Addams founded Hull House, and spoke highly of Lincoln in chapter 2 of her literary work, “20 Years at Hull House”. The fallen heroes of the Civil War succeeded in making a lasting impression on Miss Adams as she recalled reading a letter that Lincoln left her father, politican John H. Adams. Addams even recalled seeing her father cry over the fallen president and soldiers of the Civil War. Walt Whitman also possessed a strong admiration for Lincoln as well which is expressed in his poem “Oh Captain, My Captain”. Whitman admired Lincoln as a great leader, and used that to describe Lincoln‘s legacy in alliteration, metaphor, and symbolism to this day. Lincoln is still represented by many including President Obama who also mentioned Lincoln in his first inaugural speech.
Abraham Lincoln was inspired to create the “A House Divided” speech because he strongly believed that this government cannot endure under the yoke of slavery eating at the fabric of the nation’s capitalism, and saw a need for unification within the union to either be proslavery or anti-slavery, but not a split between the two. Abraham Lincoln’s speech was written in plain language with not a lot of flowery metaphors and aliteration. The most profound poetic phrase is the title itself! Lincoln was against the dehumanization of slaves in order to justify their captivity. There are hints of imagery when Lincoln uses the term “house” to describe the state of the union. Lincoln forsaw that the need for a solid decision to be made within the union was also a need to not only fight against slavery of Africans, but also a divide between northern capitalism and the southern prosperity that slavery brought which threatened the northern half of the union. Just like Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech stated “I may not get there with you”, it is very possible that Lincoln knew that he would not live very long to see slave men walking about freely as sharecroppers learning to read and build businesses on their own. The fact that Lincoln was willing to sacrifice his life for capitalism and for abolition is what made him so honorable in the eyes of people such as Walt Whitman and the mother of sociology, Jane Adams. Lincoln succeeded in making a lasting impression on both Miss Adams and Mr. Whitman and also the modern American public a like. Lincoln even inspired the 44th President of the United States Barack H Obama in his first inaugural speech. What Lincoln did over 200 years ago has made a lasting impact to this day. Jane Addams’ “20 Years at Hull House” (chapter 2) entitled “The Influence of Lincoln”, Addams expresses her reverence of President Lincoln, and the memories instilled in her childhood from observing her father John H Addams, an Illinois politician who was friends with the late President Lincoln. Adams described her observance of the impact of Lincoln’s legacy as an “initiation and baptism into the reality” of those times.
Addams stated in chapter 2 of her literary piece that Lincoln was the epitome of democracyby making one of the most important contributions in American history. Walt Whitman wrote “Oh Captain, My Captain” six months after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln shortly after the Civil War had ended in 1865. “Oh Captain, My Captain” was an elegy in honor of the admired fallen president beautifying the literary peace with allusion, metaphor, and alliteration. For example, President Lincoln would be the captain that Whitman is discussing. Whitman also admired Lincoln as a father figure. Whitman discussing “a journey on the sea” was not really about the sea, but the Civil War. The mood and tone varies throughout the poem with rhyme schemes that don’t have a necessarily organized meter to them. The statement “a flag is flown” would be an example of alliteration. The theme is filled with admiration, remembrance, and a love for the union. Whitman uses the term “fallen and cold and dead” to express grief. Terms such as “grim and daring” have been used to describe Lincoln‘s leadership during the Civil War, and his stand against slavery. The fearful trip would be the Civil War itself because no one knew which way it would go as the country fought against itself. There is no doubt that Lincoln touched the lives of many people whether they were for or slavery against slavery. This expository essay has aimed to illustrate the reasons why Lincoln was so respected and adored along with giving informative information and insight on the writers point of view about the 16th president.
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