The Wound-Dresser

by Walt Whitman

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Wound-Dresser is one of Whitman’s most famous works. There are many different angles you can take in analyzing it for an assignment. You can talk about some of the form elements, for example. The poem is written in free-verse, which was a favorite of Whitman’s, and comparing this poem to others he’s done in blank verse could be fruitful.

Another angle for analysis is how the poem is based on experiences that Whitman actually had. He was a wound-dresser, or nurse, himself, and had many experiences in hospitals like the one he describes in the poem. Going into his backstory and connecting his real-life experiences to different bits of the poem, especially in the later parts, could give you an in-road into getting done what you need to get done.

The poem is specifically about the Civil War, so this should help too. Whitman’s recollections about the war’s focus on the sad elements largely because these are what he saw, namely the aftermath of the fighting since he served as a wound-dresser.

You can find quotes to help support ideas around the section where it says, “… I recall the experience sweet and sad.”

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