What are the figures of speech in "O Captain! My Captain!" by Walt Whitman?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The central figure of speech which it is important to be aware of is the extended metaphor that runs through the whole poem. The poem is a lament following the assassination of the President Abraham Lincoln, with the "Captain" himself standing for Lincoln. Likewise the ship is meant to be the United States, and the "fearful trip" refers to the troubles of the American Civil War which is now over. Note how this extended metaphor is presented, and how it brings out the irony of the situation:

The ship is anchored safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

America is now "safe and sound" and firmly "anchored" in harbour, having achieved its goal of unity. It has "won" its "object." Yet, unfortunately, the "Captain" of this process lies on the "deck," dead, not able to enjoy the victory celebrations that are being enjoyed by others and the success of his efforts to bring America through the Civil War. This is the major figure of speech that it is important that you analyse when discussing this excellent poem.

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