Learning Unit 1

1.a. In the poem “Another Yankee Doodle”, the beginning passage “Yankee Doodle had a mind / To whip the Southern traitors, / Because they didn’t choose to live / On codfish and potatoes,” stands out to me because of how sympathetic it makes the Confederates appear, ¬†in contrast with the way history portrays them now. Ignoring their past support for the immoral practice of slavery, the Confederates in the poem come across as a group of people fighting for the right to live life the way they chose to, as seen in the phrase “Because they didn’t choose to live / On codfish and potatoes.” It reminds of how, despite the fact that we all live in the same country, we are all incredibly different in our values and beliefs.

b.The passage that I think is most important to the writer is “For if the North knew how to steal, / The South knew how to rifle.” While the passage I wrote about previously portrays the South as victims, this passage portrays the South as strong and willing to defend themselves against the North. At the same time, the North is portrayed as both thieves and cowards, who are unable to defeat the South’s “rifles”. This passage is most important to the write because it illustrates the point that the author is trying to make about the Civil War. Simply that the South is good and the North is bad.

2. Me: So, Walt Whitman, can you explain to me the message your poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” is trying to convey?

Whitman: Certainly. My poem is simply about the lives of innocents are disrupted and ruined during times of war. The ¬†phrase “Beat! beat! drums! — blow! bugles! blow!” that is repeated throughout the poem, serves as a symbol for the destructive power of war.

Me: How does that symbol illustrate your message?

Whitman: Think of the symbol as a loud noise waking you up in the middle of the night, disturbing you. In the first stanza of my poem, the beating drums and blowing bugles of war “burst like a ruthless force”, disrupting a congregation in a church, a studying scholar, even a married couple. None are immune to the disruptive force of war.

Me: So what you’re saying is that war wrecks everyday life, like soldiers who are forced to leave their families to fight in the army?

Whitman: That is one way of putting it yes.

Me: Fascinating.

Whitman: I should hope it is, I wrote the thing.

3. The problem that Emily Dickinson is addressing in her poem “It feels a shame to be Alive,” is how does one deal with their guilt over those who sacrificed themselves during wartime. Speaking from personal experience, I do not think I would ever be brave enough to enlist and admire those who do. At the same time, like Emily Dickinson, I wonder if my life is really worth the sacrifice of another. While we sit here, living our lives in relative peace and comfort, our brothers and sisters are somewhere far away dying so that we can keep living that way. Are any of us worthy of such sacrifice? I’d like to think we are and I think Emily Dickinson would like to think so too.

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