O Me! O Life!

O Me! O Life!

by Walt Whitman

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

                                       Answer.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

Summary of O Me! O Life!

  • Popularity of “O Me! O Life!”: Walt Whitman a renowned American poet, essayist, and journalist, wrote this remarkable poem. It talks about life and its futility. It was first published in 1867. The poem also speaks about the struggle of humanity and spotlights infinite struggle to understand the purpose of life. It also illustrates how people waste precious years of their lives chasing trivial goals. The poem is still applicable to every generation.
  • “O Me! O Life!” As a Representative of Human Struggle: The poem centers on humans’ struggle that how they spend years and years catching futile dreams. Hence, the poet questions everyone’s life purpose. According to him, everyone around him is foolish and faithless. He also considers himself as witless as others. He adds that everyone is vainly or selfishly looking for a light that can bring a positive change and transform their lives for good. He acknowledges that life brings never-ending challenges that ultimately snatch the eternal joy of people. The poet finds himself trapped in the cage of senseless life. He fails to understand the purpose of his living. At last, he finds the answer that existence itself is the rational motive for living.
  • Major Themes in “O Me! O Life!”: Existence, expectations versus reality, and struggle are the major themes of this poem. The poem revolves around one question that hinders the bliss of the speaker’s life. The poet questions the existence and futility of life. Although man has invented various objects for his ease and comfort, still he is unable to cope up with the challenges of life. He acknowledges that human achievement and speedy development is normal. Hence, people get disappointed in their lives. However, he does not suggest any solution to these problems. He only wants his readers to stop and realize how they are contributing to humanity simply by living.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “O Me! O Life!”

Literary devices are tools used by writers to convey their emotions, ideas, and themes to make texts more appealing to the reader. Walt Whitman has also used these devices to explain questions and answers related to life. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /r/ in “That you are here—that life exists and identity” and the sound of /s/ in “Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish.”
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /o/ in “Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring” and the sound of /e/ in “Of myself forever reproaching myself.”
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /s/ in “Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined”.
  4. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. For example, “Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish.” Here, he compares faithless people to foolish people.
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d” and “Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me.”
  6. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate a statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, in the second line of the poem, he exaggerates the negativity of the world where: “Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “O Me! O Life!”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas in this poem, each having different verses.
  2. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme scheme.
  3. Repetition: There is a repetition of the words, “Oh me! Oh life!” which has created a musical quality in the poem.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful in a speech while talking about the positive attributes of life. These could also be used for children to make them understand the value of life. You can also use the following verse for suicide prevention speeches.

That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”