Saturday, May 10, 2008

Theory Questions: "Beat! Beat! Drums!" by Walt Whitman

The poem "Beat! Beat! Drums!" can be read here:

This poem should be looked at using Cultural Poetics. This theory looks at the text by the time, place, and society it is generated from. Walt Whitman wrote this poem in light of the Civil War. The poem focuses on the sounds of the drums and bugles used during the war overpowering the people and the land. Whitman was against war. By using the adjectives such as "terrible" used to describe the sounds of the instruments and the way the line "Beat! beat! drums!-- blow! bugles! blow!" is repeated over and over throughout the poem, interrupting the flow of the poem similar to how the sound of the instruments interrupted American society during the war shows his anti-war feeling. By looking at this poem using knowledge of the time it stems from and seeing it as Whitman's attempt to rile society against the war helps the reader understand the poem.

Critical questions:

1) If you did not know the poem was written in the time of the Civil War, would you assume it was about that war or a war of some type by the descriptions in the poem and the use of the drums and bugles?

2) How does Whitman use imagery to describe how he sees society being affected?

3) How does using exclamation points and the repetition of the line "Beat! beat! drums!-- blow! bugles! blow!" affect the message of the poem?

1 comment:

jaccoma said...

2. I just love the imagery that Whitman uses to emulate what he witnesses with the urban life, He did not agree with this lifestyle and therefore uses these images to paint a picture of what he saw- sort of his way of saying that it is almost wrong to live like that.