Critical Analysis of Walt Whitman, ‘A Noiseless Patient Spider’

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In ‘A Noiseless Patient Spider’, the persona talks of a noiseless and patient spider on a headland. As it weaves its web, the spider leaves a trace of its huge extensive surroundings. Later on, in the second stanza, the readers are made to understand that the spider is actually related to the persona’s soul that is always trying to make connections in the world. The speaker encourages his soul to keep twisting because when “Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere…”  (Line 10), the essential bridges will be constructed.

Reading then poem from a psychological viewpoint, the poem can be read and interpreted in various ways. Superficially, the poem describes a minute face of a spider’s life and Whitman’s philosophical quest. The first stanza is grounded in the natural act combined with an organic existence. At this point, the spider is used to reflect the natural world. However, in the second stanza, Whitman brings in the imaginary aspects with the speaker visualizing the contemplations of his own soul compared with the spider. The philosophical contemplations of Whitman draw spiritual matters into the poem. The connection of the image of the spider to persona's soul attempts to address the argument of the meaning of life. The poem becomes a complicated quest for the unknown answers to the humanity's spiritual destination.

In the poem, the persona’s soul and the spider plights are similar. Nature demands that they use their skills to construct connections while searching for substantive and useful bonds in life. For instance, in the first stanza, characterization of the spider somehow indicates hopelessness as the spider is “isolated” (Line 2) and will be forever “unreeling” (Line 4) of his web is without any hope of making an effect on his huge surrounding.  However, similar to most of Whitman’s poems (Diehl), towards the end of the poem, there is a ray of hope despite the endless search for connections (Line 8). The personal assures his soul of the eventual success and rest, just like the spider with a completed web.

Throughout the poem, there is a reflection of the excellent use of imagery and metaphor. In the first stanza, Whitman clearly describes the experience of watching the spider threading its web. The vivid description lures the reader into the persona’s fascination. However, in the second stanza, the imagery is creatively weaved into a metaphor to bring in his soul’s figurative wants. “To the bridge, you will need be form’d” (Line 9) and “Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul” (Line 10). Additionally, the title of the poem displays the imagery that holds the meaning of the poem. Through imagery and metaphor, Whitman successfully relays some themes using the only ten-line poem. The poem illustrates natural world, an aspect of spirituality, isolation, and exploration.

‘A Noiseless patient Spider’ origin goes way back to mid-1850s when Walt Whitman compared the human bay for knowledge of the spiritual world to a worm on a piece of wood. The twig reached out into a vast space past its little world. Later on, around 1862, the worm had transformed into a spider, and the attention shifted to a soul seeking love (Diehl). Evidently, Whitman’s ‘A Noiseless Patient Spider’ is arguably one of the greatest pieces of art of all time. The poem is a reflection of the struggles human being goes through on a daily basis in the spiritual realm. 

Work Cited

Diehl, Paul. "A Noiseless Patient Spider': Whitman's Beauty—Blood and Brain."Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 6 (1989): 117–132. Print.

November 24, 2023




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