A Noiseless Patient Spider

by Walt Whitman

Start Free Trial

Student Question

What type of diction is used in Whitman's "A Noiseless Patient Spider"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In "A Noiseless Patient Spider" by Walt Whitman, the speaker uses diction that transcends the mundane to the realm of the spiritual.  While the first stanza is essentially literal as the attentive observation of a spider in the act of building his web, certain words aggrandize this effort.  For example, the spider is on a little "promontory," and it "launched forth filament, filament, filament.../Ever unreeling them...."

It is in the second stanza that the speaker transcends the literal meanings and considers the spiritual connotations of the spider's actions.  For, there is a comparison of the spider to the speaker's soul as he uses apostrophe:

And you, O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them.

Thus, the speaker's soul is likened to the spider in its "unreeling" striving.  But, the soul's reach is much more extensive than that of the merely instinctive spider in this metaphor;the soul must find spiritual or intellectual certainties in the unverse to which it belongs.  Indeed, the symbolic meaning trancends the mundane as it is "detached" and searches for "the ductile anchor hold" where it can "catch somewhere" and perhaps find celestial spheres.

Whitman's diction that has, as enotes remarks, "a marriage of sense and sound"[e.g. the sense of casting out with the repetition of "filament, filament, filament ],and its connotations and imagery suggest this overwhelming insignificance of the human being as it is "detached, in measureless oceans of space."  And, the soul is rather intimidated by the chasm between life and the hereafter as it searches for the "anchor hold" that will connect it to the " celestial spheres" which is seeks.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial