How does the poem "A Noiseless Patient Spider" demonstrate Transcendentalist ideals?Walt Whitman's "A Noiseless Patient Spider"

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Walt Whitman's "A Noiseless Patient Spider," Whitman's love for nature--an ideal founded in Transcendentalism--is communicated as the spider becomes a metaphor for the individual soul.  In its isolation, in its individuality--also a precept of Transcendentalism --the spider casts out its gossamer threads "to explore the vacant, vast surrounding."  If this line is not reminiscient of Henry David Thoreau's quest into the woods to "live deliberately" and "to learn what it had to teach," then, certainly the last stanza is.

And, like Emerson's nonconformist who must be himself, the spider/soul of Whitman stands alone, "surrounded by measureless oceans of space...seeking the spheres to connect them"--that is, "living deliberately," as Thoreau writes.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This poem shows Transcendentalist ideas in a couple of ways.

First of all, the Transcendentalists felt that people were really a part of nature and that nature was a part of all people as well.  We can see that in this poem as the speaker likens his own soul to a spider.

Second, the Transcendentalists believed that people should do their own thing.  They should act as their conscience tells them.  I see this in the first stanza as the spider figures out for itself how to fill the void.  And then the spider fills it with things from within the spider itself.  So this is talking about making your world with things from within you.

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