The theme of the “Artilleryman’s Vision” by Walt Whitman lies in the universal response to war long after a soldier returns from combat.
Through the narrator of his poem, Whitman speaks of the deep rooted, long lasting memories that surface repeatedly for those who experience combat. Whitman’s poem describes action during the Civil War and tells of a soldier’s reaction to his experience. It disrupts his peaceful home life; a wife and an infant sleep peacefully next to him yet he is jolted awake. This experience is common in those who return from any type of combat. They are hauntingly aware of the actions in their realistic dreams and flashbacks. This affliction has gained notoriety of late as it is now termed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and is the focus of veteran’s affairs advocacy groups. The theme of anguish in this poem is enduring.