A Noiseless Patient Spider

by Walt Whitman

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Student Question

In "A Noiseless Patient Spider," is the narrator envious or jealous of the spider? Why?

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It does seem, perhaps, that the speaker of Walt Whitman's poem "A Noiseless Patient Spider" is somewhat envious of how the spider is able to "tirelessly" and constantly launch filaments that are able to catch onto something.

The controlling metaphor of Walt Whitman's poem is that of the soul being likened to the spider as it is "seeking the spheres to connect them." Much like the spider, the soul casts filament after filament in an effort to find meaning and a sense of the divine. But, the patient spider seems more successful in its venture of launching "filament, filament, filament."

Certainly, the soul's task is more difficult and more complicated. The soul is

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,...

In Whitman's poem, much like the spider, man also finds his realm beginning within himself. But, unlike the spider, who engages in the daily spinning of his webs, the soul that reaches out must generate an essential, yet extraordinary anchor that can hold because such casting is not part of man's mundane world; it is, instead, a transcendent experience.

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