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Essay on Whitman’s Bivouac on a Mountain Side

Analysis of Whitman’s Bivouac on a Mountain Side

First published after the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, Walt Whitman’s poem “Bivouac on a Mountain Side” portrays more than just the tangible picture of a transcendentalist’s vision. The mood of the poem reflects the author’s observations and visions of the Civil War while stationed in Washington and Virginia as well as his beliefs about the war by use of imagery and symbolism.

The use of imagery in “Bivouac on a Mountain Side” is one of the compelling factors that draws the reader into the poem so that he/she no longer reads what Whitman is writing, but rather sees what he is describing and understands Whitman’s place in the war. Different from other Whitman poems, “Bivouac on a Mountain Side” does not contain the title phrase anywhere in the body of the poem, but rather sets the stage for the described scene. Whitman’s use of imagery in “Bivouac on a Mountain Side” provides the basis for symbolic representation in the poem. In the first line of the poem, “I see before me now a traveling army halting”, begins the description of a troop that he is observing. Starting with the second line of the poem, Whitman attaches meaning to each of the elements in the poem. “A fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards of summer” symbolizes the peaceful stillness of a country that has not been torn by war. In a sense, the second line is used to represent an unadulterated America. However, behind that lies “the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising high, broken with rocks, with clinging cedars, and with tall shapes dingily seen” (lines 3 and 4). The description of this grand and almost menacing mountain, in contrast to the val…

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…ut first hand observations of the war taking place around him. Looking deeper into the poem enables the reader to gain Whitman’s insight about the soldiers during the war: their fear, excitement, and hope.

(1) I see before me now a traveling army halting

(2) Below a fertile valley spread, with barns and the orchards of summer,

(3) Behind, the terraced sides of a mountain, abrupt, in places rising high,

(4) Broken, with rocks, with clinging cedars, with tall shapes dingily seen,

(5) The numerous camp-fires scatter’d near and far, some away up on the mountain,

(6) The shadowy forms of men and horses, looming, large-sized, flickering

(7) And over all the sky- the sky! Far, far out of reach, studded, breaking out, the eternal stars

The Impact of Truth in Oedipus Rex (the King)

The Impact of Truth in Oedipus Rex (the King)

“Truth has made me strong.” This is a quote from Tiresias, one of the characters in Sophocles’s tragedy, Oedipus Rex. The quote has different meaning and relevance for each of the different characters, but for the character of Creon, the quote is completely true. By the end of the play, the truth had not only prompted Oedipus to forgive Creon, clearing his name of any previous accusations, but the truth had also made Creon Oedipus’s successor. However, Creon was not one to squander the power that he knew can be gained from knowing the truth. He understood its power and importance, and kept it private.

For the majority of the play, right up until the very end, Oedipus sees Creon as an enemy. He thinks that Creon, in league with Tiresias, is Laius’s murderer and is conspiring to overthrow the king and take the throne for himself, “You the murderer so self-proved, the self-condemned filcher of my thrown…”(29). However, when the truth comes out that Oedipus has married his mother and killed his father, all is forgiven between the king and Creon. Oedipus makes this beautifully clear when he says “God bless you, Creon, bless your path through life, encompass you with surer joys than mine”(78). Having a good and unmarred reputation is a form of power in that people will respect the person, as well as listen to what he or she has to say. If the truth had never come out and Oedipus had never made peace with Creon, Creon’s reputation would have been that of a traitor and a murderer. No one would have respected him and he would not have had any practical strength.

The power that Creon ended up with is best described in this quote from the Chorus: “Wait! Here comes Creon……

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…ly saw the world. For the first time, he understands his surroundings, and understands the world for what it really was. Even though the truth takes away his family, kingdom, pride and possessions, the truth gives him something he needs more than all of those: understanding. Sophocles shows his brilliance as a playwright by adding intelligent, terrible irony to the end of the play. The irony is that at the monumental change in Oedipus’ life, when he can, for the first time, see the world with clarity, he can see nothing at all, for he blinds himself. Oedipus becomes like Tiresias, visually blind, but mentally clear. Perhaps Oedipus unintentionally takes an example from Tiresias, learning that it is far better to live one’s life without sight and see the world clearly through the minds eye, than to be able to see, but have ones sight blinded by pride.

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