Civil War Poetry Analysis


The Civil War was a war in the United States that was fought between the northern and southern states. It started on April 12th of 1861 and ended May 9th of 1865. More than 620,000 Americans were killed from either fighting, wounds, or disease. Writers like to have something to relate to or connect their writings to. Three writers that connected to the Civil War are Ambrose Bierce, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson. They give us insights into the time of the war and what they thought of it.

First, the poem I’m using is “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” written by Ambrose Bierce. This poem is about a Southern planter as he is about to be hung by the fighting side. “From this state he was awakened- ages later, it seemed to him- by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation.” (Bierce 585). This is showing how one side of the war treated the other side. Peyton Farquhar was being hung because the soldier tricked him into coming to “help” when really he was just tricked into being hung by them. Another part is “He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine.” This is talking about his home and what it looked like when he left. “As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him.” (Bierce 592). Farquhar is hallucinating in this part because in real life, he is being hung and almost dead. He is hallucinating being back at home with his wife and everything is beautiful and happy. This is also him dreaming of escaping and getting home to his wife. Bierce shows in this poem that when a person was hurt or dying, they thought of their people at back at home or when people had to do go to war, their family was really worried about them.

Next, the second poem is “I Hear America Singing” written by Walt Whitman. This poem what written to show the importance of every single type of job during that time no matter how small or big. He praises the blue collared working class and shows their role in society. “The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,”. (Whitman 510). He also lists other jobs such as carpenter, boatmen and mechanics. In this poem, he is showing that all the people are singing the same song and while they were singing, they were also working happily away. Whitman shows the jobs that were working even when the Civil War was going on. These jobs still had to be done and the people that were doing them were proud of it. No matter what type of job people were working during this time, they were all very much needed and they all helped each other together.

Lastly, the final poem is “Success is counted sweetest” written by Emily Dickinson. This poem is about going without something actually makes a person appreciate it more then they would if they had it. “Success is counted sweetest By those who ne’er succeed.” (Dickinson 528). This means that when the people who never succeed, succeed they appreciate it way more then when someone who succeeds often and would appreciate it. The people who fail more often are the people who appreciate succeeding the most. Like for example, a soldier who won a battle knows what a victory feels like more but a dying soldier of the opposing side would appreciate it more. People who tend to lose more appreciate succeeding more then people who win or do good do.

In conclusion, the thing is three writers all wrote about and connected to was the Civil War. The Civil War was written about in very many different ways. Ambrose Bierce uses a poem about a planter that gets treated horribly, Walt Whitman uses a poem that shows that every job during the civil war was important, and Emily Dickinson uses a poem that says people who tend to lose more appreciate succeeding more than people who win often. They all wrote about it in different ways but in the end, they all talk about how the Civil War affected Americans.

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