Leaves of Grass Characters

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Leaves of Grass Summary & Study Guide Description

Leaves of Grass Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

Walt Whitmanappears in All

Walter Whitman (1819-1892) is considered to be one of the most famous American poets of his time. Born in Long Island, New York, Whitman was the second of nine children born to Quakers. The family was rather poor throughout Whitman's childhood, often leaving the poet to refer to his youth as unhappy and restless.

Whitman held many jobs before becoming known as a writer. Among the poet's careers were: journalist, government worker, teacher, printer, publisher, and volunteer nurse during the Civil War.

Whitman is best known for his poetry collection titled Leaves of Grass. First published anonymously in 1855 with the author's own money, the collection was comprised of twelve poems. Whitman continued to work on the project throughout the rest of his life, editing and expanding its contents. Many were incensed over Whitman's overt sexuality and controversial themes and the work was often dubbed as being obscene.

Whitman spent many years trying to find the appropriate poetic style to reflect his thoughts and ideals. Free verse eventually suited Whitman the most, although the verses often use a cadence similar to that used in the verses of the Bible.

The style of the work did not affect the public response as much as the subject matter. Although Whitman had a great number of admirers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Bram Stoker, there were others who were incensed by Whitman's overt references to bisexuality. One critic vehemently stated that the work was trashy and obscene and even referred to Whitman as a "pretentious ass."

Regardless of Whitman's critics, he became a revered figure among poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who admired the author's openness and vagabond lifestyle. Whitman has often been referred to, erroneously, as the Father of Free Verse.

In 1892, shortly after preparing yet another edition of Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman died of pleurisy in his Camden, New Jersey home.

Abraham Lincolnappears in n American President, O Captain! My Captain!, Abraham Lincol

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was the 16th president of the United States. Lincoln is one of the most recognizable presidents after George Washington for his illustrious history and activity in the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln grew up in rural Kentucky in a one-room cabin. Although Lincoln only completed 18 months of formal schooling, he was an avid reader and largely self-taught in many areas including law. Eventually, Lincoln became a lawyer and entered into politics as a member of the Whig party.

In later years, Lincoln married Mary Todd, the daughter of an affluent Kentucky family. It is ironic that Lincoln will become one of the most outspoken leaders regarding the abolition of slaves in light of the fact that the Todd family owned many slaves at their home. Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860 as a Republican. Part of Lincoln's appeal was his moderate conservatism and views and the fact that he was an abolitionist. Throughout his four-year term, Lincoln worked tirelessly to negotiate peace between the North and the South. However his unwavering views on slavery would ultimately guarantee that there would be a civil war.

Lincoln was known as a great speaker, and two of his speeches remain at the forefront in American history. The speeches include the Gettysburg address, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Abraham Lincoln and Mary Todd had four sons, only one of which lived to adulthood. Lincoln was known to have several medical afflictions, one of which was responsible for his unusual height and frailty. Lincoln also suffered from malaria and manic depression. The depression may explain Lincoln's mood swings and somewhat confusing behavior, as evidenced by Whitman in his work.

Lincoln's progress in the Civil War angered many Confederates. John Wilkes Booth, a political activist and well-known actor, was hired to kidnap Lincoln so that the President could be exchanged for imprisoned Confederate soldiers. Booth, however, became enraged with Lincoln and instead of kidnapping, decided to assassinate the President. Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed in Ford's Theater in Washington, DC in 1865.

Young Pioneersappears in Pioneers! O Pioneers!

Groups of young pioneers who came from all over the United States to travel west and conquer the untamed land.

Two Veteransappears in Dirge for Two Veterans

Whitman writes a tribute to two fallen veterans who are the subjects of a passing funeral procession in "Dirge for Two Veterans."

Christopher Columbusappears in A Thought of Columbus

"A Thought of Columbus" is a tribute to the courage and experiences of Christopher Columbus.

Osceolaappears in Osceola

Osceola was a young Seminole warrior who fought in the Florida War in the mid-1800s. The man surrendered to the Marines and eventually died of a broken heart in prison.

Ship's Captainappears in O Captain! My Captain

The ship's captain is the subject of "O Captain! My Captain!" which is probably Whitman's most famous poem. The Captain has managed to sail a treacherous voyage but dies before it ends only to be found by a member of the crew.

Adamappears in Children of Adam, Adam in the Early Morning

Whitman makes reference to Adam in two separate poems. Whitman sees the new wondrous world through Adam's eyes, bringing to life God's desires.

Prostitutesappears in To a Common Prostitute

Whitman has a fondness for all people, including prostitutes, to which the poet wrote several pieces. In "To a Common Prostitute" Whitman tells the woman that she will never excluded from his life.

Felonsappears in You Felons in Court on Trials

"You Felons in Court on Trials" is Whitman's earnest look at the subjects in question. The men are locked in prison cells and await judgment yet Whitman wonders why it is not he who is with them for all he has done.

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