Sep 25 2010

Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

Published by at 2:27 pm under Uncategorized and tagged:

How does Walt Whitman connect to the crowd?

Walt Whitman focuses on his connection to the masses on the ferry, as a part of the crowd. He focuses on the sheer number of people and relates it to the vastness of nature, describing scenes from Manhattan and Brooklyn. Part of the Romantic movement, of which he was a pioneer and champion, involved a universal connectedness. Whitman stresses this by using lines such as, “Just as you…”, “I too…”, “[…] between us,” and “It is not you alone.” He relates everything that happens and has happened to him and the rest of the passengers on the ferry using and repeating phrases like this. One line that particularly struck me was, “Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not” (line 59).

It’s really his use of the word “crowd” (which appears five times in the twelve stanzas of the poem) that stresses his connection to the other passengers. As part of a whole, Whitman is focusing on the microcosm of the ferry that translates into humanity, and ultimately, the universe. I particularly enjoy Romantic poetry, and this is a perfect example of Whitman’s expressive verse. He turned a fairly mundane thing, such as going to and from Brooklyn, into a cathartic voyage.

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