Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow and the Early Writers

Whitman, Dickinson, Longfellow and the Early Writers

The works of Whitman, Dickinson and Longfellow bear many similarities as well as differences in terms of tone and language with that of the early writers. Whitman employs a hopeful tone in most of his writings. His main objective is to give hope to people that they can still receive salvation. For instance in the poem “A Noiseless Patient Spider”, Whitman writes: “And you, O my soul, where you stand, surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space, ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them…” (Kummings, 2005). p. 327). Early writers such as Jonathan Edwards chose a menacing tone in most of his summons. He threatens followers with damnation using metaphors as in: “The God that holds you over the spit of hell, much as one holds a spider …. Over the fire; His wrath towards you burns like fire …” (Edwards and Frankena, 1960, p. 113).

Related Papers: Writings by Stowe, Jacobs and Speeches by Lincoln

In majority of his poems, Longfellow used a sentimental tone that appeal to his readers’ emotions. For instance the poem “Pegasus in Pound”, Longfellow employs a sentimental tone throughout the work, similar with other works such as his popular “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie.” The later is a reflection of fishermen and farmers who lead a mundane life, only to be thrown into disarray after war erupts. Dickinson employs a homiletic tone in most of her works.

A striking similarity between the works of Whitman, Longfellow and Dickinson and earlier American writers is the use imagery and metaphors in both works. Common symbols used in all works include sun, moon, stars, animals, birds, and others. Dickinson usually used images of nature such as the sun, hills and rivers. Having a tinge of purists’ influence in her works, Dickinson used nature in developing imagery as a way of seeking significance with nature – to her, God is manifested through nature.


Edwards, J., & Frankena, W. K. (1960). The nature of true virtue. Ann Arbor: Univ. of     Michigan Press.

Kummings, D. (2005). Companion to Walt Whitman. Oxford: Blackwell Pub.