Close reading of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman + Questions 

Part I close reading
Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour high—I see you also face
      to face.
Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes, how curious
      you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning
      home, are more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence are more
      to me, and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.
Close Reading:
The part that I will be doing a close reading on is the first section of the poem. This is interesting because the author begins the poem using patterns and repetition. Examples of this include “face to face,” “shore to shore,” “hundreds and hundreds.” The reason for repetition is usually to emphasize the importance of something. In this case I believe the author is indicating the sheer amount of whatever words he repeats. So the shore must be very large and there are many people huddling on this shore. This helps to create imagery and a sense of setting. The author employs these tactics in the beginning of the poem in order to set the place, mood, etc. The pattern aids the flow of the poem. My interpretation is that the author is waiting for someone of great importance to arrive to him in the years to come. He is expecting and waiting for his arrival. I believe he visits the ferry boats often to look at all the faces that he claims are curious to him, however he then goes on to add that all those people don’t compare to how curious “you” are. The author is clearly addressing this poem to a certain someone as he repeatedly says “you.” He adds the word meditation which can be interpreted as many things, his thoughts, his prayers, or whatever he does to provide him solace from I am guessing the absence of this person in his life.
Questions:
1. What kind of sentence lengths is Whitman using?
Whitman is using long sentences. He is extending his sentences with commas. This gives the poem a sense of length as it is being carried further and deeper. He never actually ends any of his sentences except for those that end with exclamation and question marks. His sentences just seem to flow on. His sentences are also loaded with tons and tons of adjectives.
2. Does he use repetition?
There is without a doubt loads of repetition in his poem. He applied them into patterns. In my opinion, his best use of repetition is when he uses the same word to begin every sentence for a length of the poem. Some words he uses are “the,” “looked,” “just.” This use of repetition is similar to what musical artists use from time to time in their lyrics.
3. What is the effect of the above two devices?
As words keep being repeated their purpose builds and makes every sentence after that more dramatic and impactful. Hearing the word again and again really bashes the words and meaning of what the author is saying into your brain. Again this is another tool the author uses to regulate importance of certain points. The adjectives he uses help to describe the feelings and setting. It is necessary for all the adjectives to be appear in order to provide imagery and make the poem interesting.
4. Do you see any similarities with any of the other texts we’ve read (Open City, “The Allure of the Map”, “The History of a City Underfoot”, “On Exactitude in Science”, “Mapmaker”, and even “Shitty First Drafts”)? Do a comparison and contrast with one of these.
This poem carried a lot of similarities in my opinion to the “Mapmaker.” In terms of writing creatively they both exploited the use of description to try to create a image for the reader. The sentences in the “Mapmaker” were on certain occasions also very long. For instance this sentence, “A map…of the imperial dominions, in which each house shall be represented by a life-sized house, every mountain shall be depicted by a mountain, every tree by a tree of the same size and type, every river by a river, and every man by a man.” This is a very long sentence consisting of different parts all of which describe differently and even use religion of words such as river by river, man by a man, and tree by tree exactly the same as the poem utilizes.

One thought on “Close reading of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman + Questions 

  1. Zamil, great close reading analysis! By the way, you didn’t set up your hypothes.is on your blog site so I can’t leave an annotation on your page. First, I really like how you mentioned that Whitman uses long sentences and connects them with the use of commas to really extend the sentences to make it known to the reader that everything he is writing is of somewhat importance. I also enjoyed reading your opinion on how the two literary devices effected the outcome of Whitman’s story. Good read.

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