Walt Whitman And W. H. Auden: Techniques To Evoke Readers Emotions

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Poets are extremely good at conveying an emotion through words and evoking the emotion of a reader. Two poets that were skilfully able to do this were Walt Whitman and W.H Auden. Both poets were able to explore the theme of death and loss through the use of text structures, literary and visual devices and language features. Although both poets explore the same concept ‘death’ they use many different features to convey their individuality in writing.

The poem “O captain My Captain” was written by poet Walt Whitman after the assassination of the 16th president Abraham Lincoln. It was written in the form of an elegy which included several literary elements. Expression of mourning and grief are the focus of the poem. Literary devices worked to project hidden meanings in the poem. Personification was used to give human assets to lifeless objects. “Mournful tread” was implying that he cannot live without his captain. Another device that was used was visual imagery, examples of this was “cold and dead”, “Lips are pale and still”, bleeding drops of red”. His choice of powerful words with these examples enabled the reader to visualize the death of the captain. The phrase “O Captain, My captain” expresses the respect and attachment the speaker felt towards his captain. To emphasise the loss of the captain

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The same goes for W.H Auden’s poem “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone”. The poem exemplifies the poet’s use of structure and devices to convey a tragedy. The tone throughout the poem is that of a melancholy sadness. This was enforced by the rhyme scheme (aabb). The first line as well as the title demonstrates the author’s grief by asking the reader to do something which is not physically possible “Stop all the clocks”. The poem is divided into four stanzas. The first three lines in the first stanza represent how the author wants to eliminate distractions; clocks ticking, telephones ringing, dogs barking and pianos playing these things could be disabling the writer to mourn the death. Auden feels so deeply affected by this personal loss that he feels the entire world should be grieving. This is found in lines 5 and 6 illustrating the author wants the news to be “scribbled across the sky”. The author uses exaggerated metaphors to imply his importance. An example of this is, He was my North, my South, my East and West. This successfully emphasised how important the deceased was for the narrator.

In poem of these poems the theme of death and loss is successfully shown throughout by the use of language features and text structures. Walt Whitman’s draws upon his own experiences with death and this makes his poetry real.

In conclusion both poets have been able to efficiently explore the theme of death using language features and text structures and their individual writing styles to influence the audience and evoke emotional responses. Whitman is subtle throughout his poem and you know what image he’s trying to bring to his audience. Auden on the other hand is a lot more explicit and slowly reveals through his poem the impact of the death. Both poets skilfully employed language features to influence audiences. It was Auden’s strong use of structural choices and language features that was able to best convey the theme of death and effectively show the impact this loss has had compared to Whitman’s which was quite subtle in his explanation.


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