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Walt Whitman “A Noiseless Patient Spider“ And Muriel Rukeyser “Myth“


Walt Whitman “A Noiseless Patient Spider“ And Muriel Rukeyser “Myth“


In the two poems, "A Noiseless Patient Spider" and "Myth", the poets use differing grammatical and discoursive forms such as first and third person, narration technique including dialogue and first person storytelling. It is through these methods that the authors are able to express their ideas to us in their own specific ways, manipulating mood, tone, perspective, enviornment, etc. They can give us a broader perspective utilizing third person, or they can bar us from the mind of other characters limiting us to the main character through first person. These methods give stories their own unique feel, as we shall see how.

In "A Noiseless Patient Spider", Whitman uses a first person perspective to communicate the story to us. Through first person, we become Whitmans observer, watching the spider with him and through him. Our perception is limited to Whitman himself, observing the spider in it's patient work, analyzing it with his mind. For instance we are not allowed to see things through the spiders eyes, as it weaves away, unbeknowist as to what it is thinking or that which motivates it to do it's patient work, we only see Whitman's idea. Perhaps the spider is simply following impulses that drive it, and it hungers realizing the web to be the method for which to satiate that hunger. In essence we are perceptually restricted in a realistic way. I believe this connects us more intimately to the character in which we view the world from, and serves to simulate reality more accurately than other methods such as third person.

Now, when we look at "Myth", we are expanded to a third person point of

view. The contrast to Whitman is noticeable, and the story feels different to us. This is because we perceive the story not from Oedipus, nor from the Sphinx, but through the eyes of an invisible observer. The feeling is no longer personal, but transient and God-like. The poem takes the form of a social dialogue between two individuals, a discourse between the Sphinx and Oedipus. We are suspended between the two characters, listening to what each of them have to say to one another but due to the perspective we are unable to hear their inner minds ticking. We hear their responses to one another, but only at a vocal level which leaves out alot of potential information. We are expanded beyond the two consciousnesses of Oedipus and the Sphinx which forces us to observe from a more neutral, less-biased position, our judgment narrowed to the face value of what each of the characters say.



One of the other more noticeable elements utilized in these poems that directs the flow of information is that of the narration style. Whitman makes use of the technique of narration. That is, he gives us the information directly to our ears and eyes, speaking as if he would to himself or to the spider. He shifts at the end of the poem from speaking to the spider to speaking to himself, "And you O my soul where you stand." He is now relating the spider to himself, as he speaks about his own soul and compares it to the spider. A story flows smoothly with this style. With the first person narration the story is unimpeded by other views or shifting viewpoints which enhances the consistency considerably.

"Myth" is told in the form of a social discourse, a dialogue. The tradition of this form of communication has been passed down to us through history from the ancient Greeks. The dialogue, as opposed to standard narration, allows us the liberty of receiving the ideas and notions of the story not through the consciousness of any isolated individual, but from the contrast that emerges naturally between the discourse of two opposing individuals. We get to hear both sides of the story this way and base our decisions on how the characters respond to one another. We are not biased towards Oedipus, because we are not seeing through him, nor are we biased towards the Sphinx. You see the story is not being told through Oedipus, but between him and the Sphinx. At the beginning of the story we are indifferent, and as the dialogue evolves and we hear the characters responses we are able to make judgement upon the ideas presented to us.

Lastly we come to modern fiction versus mythological fiction (rehashed that is). By the word modern, I mean that which isn't ancient/classical, or preclassical literature. Whitman uses an altogether modern style in his poem, the specific elements utilized being that which I’ve covered in the above paragraphs. Whitman contemplates himself (his existence) through the parable of a simple organism, a spider, spinning it's web tirelessly to achieve a desired end result, or goal. This he finds, is akin to his inquiry into his own soul and mortality. The individual strands and sections of the web must all be weaved separately before they can all come together to form the actual web, the spider being unable to weave the entire thing at once. Whitman, in order to understand his life, must work in the same way by learning different ideals and personal truths through science, technology and philosophy - all small pieces of the larger puzzle that must all eventually come together in some finite result, comprehendible to man.

Muriel uses the ancient dialogue of Oedipus and the riddle of the Sphinx, which causes him to fatefully murder his father and marry his mother - unbeknownst to him until it is too late. The author uses the old dialogue, and distorts it in a way to benefit her intentions. She uses the mythological theme that is originally expressed by the old story, but she alters it to a feminine perspective distancing the use of "man" and "woman". She also indirectly assigns a female persona to the Sphinx. Oedipus was tricked because in his ignorance, he did not include women in his answer to the Sphinx's riddle "What walks on four legs in the morning, two at noon, and three in the evening?", his answer being "man". Oedipus suggests that woman is implied in the generic term "man", which the Sphinx opposes. It seems then that the author uses this work as a warning to modern men, still stuck in the cognition of olden times.

The two poems clearly express that which their authors set out to. The elemental methods used were lucid in distinction, shedding light on the intended purposes of these two poets. It is easy to see the variation one can employ, in ones quest for presenting an idea to a large population. The knowledge and understanding of these presentational mechanisms are essential to the success of their absorption. Any aspiring story-teller, or poet, should be intimately aware of this.




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