On Walt Whitman's Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry

Essay by PJUniversity, Bachelor'sB+, October 1996

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One and the Same

Walt Whitman asks himself and the reader of the poem, 'Crossing

Brooklyn Ferry,' what significance a person's life holds in the

scope of densely populated planet. The poem explores the

difficulties of discovering the relevance of life. The methods

that helped Whitman grasp his own idea of the importance of life

are defined with some simple yet insightful and convincing

observations. By living under and for the standards of others,

a person can never live a fulfilling life. Distinguishing

oneself from the mobs of society can be next to impossible when

every other human is competing for the same recognition with

their own similar accomplishments. The suggestion that Whitman

offers as a means of becoming distinguished, or obtaining an

identity, is to live a life of self-satisfaction. The

persuasive devices in 'Crossing Brooklyn Ferry' successfully

communicate Whitman's own theory of breaking the molds of

society by living as a self-satisfying individual.

What makes one person's life different from the next? Whitman

leaves the apprehension that the distinguishing characteristics

are few. Whitman informs the audience that he has lead the same

life as they, who lead the same life as their children will and

their ancestors did. The poet questions the significance of a

person's achievements by asking, 'My great thoughts as I

supposed them, were they not in reality meagre [sic]?' It would

be hard for any person to measure their self-accomplishments on

the planetary scale which Whitman is speaking of. The second

verse of the poem introduces the metaphor of the world being a

'simple, compact, well-joined scheme' with the people dissolved

into the 'eternal float of solution.' Like the

mechanical'scheme' that Whitman refers to, much of the poem

consists of topics that possess a repetitive or mechanical

quality. Sunrises, sunsets, tides, seasons, circling birds,