By 1850 in USA we have political tension between North and South America:
- While in the North there was industrialization, in the South there was agriculture (tobacco, cotton)
- While Northern people were against slavery, Southern people were supporters of slavery
- While in the North there was Republican Party with Abraham Lincoln, in the South we can find the Confederate States of America
In 1861 the civil war broke out. In 1865 the blue Northern troops won grey confederate States. President Lincoln was assassinated by Southern fanatic. Abolition of slavery did not front the black’s equality and they were segregated in schools, hospitals and transport. From the 1850 up to 1900 America became the richest and most modern country in the world thanks to technological innovations.
W. Whitman was the 1st poet of American literature, the 1st true poet and he is very important for the struggle of democracy, freedom and of progress. Differently from Wilde he didn’t graduated and he has a working class family. He wrote 9 editions of a collection of poems, “Leaves of Grass” where we can find also the most famous poetry “Captain, my captain”. The 3rd edition is banished by puritan mind of American people, it was considered immoral and Whitman gained a reputation of obscenity and homosexuality. During the civil war he visited wounded soldiers in the army hospitals. The 4th edition contained poems on the civil war. This collection is a life-long poem because during his entire life he composed and collected every poems. It was published the 4th of July, the Independence Day. The themes of this collections are first of all optimism, progress, American dream, faith in the dynamic future of America and democracy. In this collection we have a self-celebration of the poet, like a prophet of his country and when in Wilde we have the concept of Art for Art’s Sake and so there isn’t a deductive aim, Whitman’s task is to give voice to the common man, to reveal the truth. He considered his country as the incarnation of the “American dream”.

“O captain, my captain” is one of Whitman’s most popular poems, that celebrate the figure of Abraham Lincoln, seen not only as a politician or a statesman but as a father, so his death is compared to a personal loss. At first we can notice that the death of Lincoln is only a bad dream, then we have the beginning of the realization that he was dead and finally the total awareness of his death. The poem is an extended metaphor: Lincoln is the captain who has “fallen cold and dead”, having been assassinated after the Civil war had ended by a fanatic actor; the “fearful trip” is the Civil War; “the ship” is the United States; “rack” means the difficulties of the Civil War; “port” is the end of the Civil War and the “prize” refers to the abolition of slavery and so freedom and democracy. The tense that prevails is a first happiness and hope, then the author is totally sad and he is totally resigned for the death of his Captain

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