What is the juxtaposition in "A Noiseless, Patient Spider"?  Is there any satire on human race to overcome the truth?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Juxtaposition occurs when an author places two characters or events or narrative moments close to one another for the purpose of drawing a contrast between them.  Therefore, in this poem, a spider and a human soul are juxtaposed in order to emphasize their differences. 

In the first stanza, the speaker describes a single spider, noting how it stands alone, and draws attention to the way it spins its web, shooting out one silken thread after another.  In the second stanza, the speaker now addresses his own soul, noting that it, too, is surrounded by a vast open space, alone and isolated.  He says that his soul explores, wonders, attempts, to connect with its environment just as the spider does.  And, just like the spider, his soul will continue to shoot out its own "gossamer thread" until it successfully attaches itself to something via this connection. 

Thus, in the end, there is not much difference at all between a spider and the human soul, and the juxtaposition really draws our attention to their similarity.  Although this poem does not present a satire of humanity -- there does not seem to be any way in which Whitman is attempting to point out our flaws in an effort to force us to change -- it does employ verbal irony through its use of unexpected language.  We would not expect a comparison of our soul to a spider; it is a fairly atypical pairing.  Because it is so unexpected, it does succeed in attracting our attention.

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