Miracles by Walt Whitman: Summary, Analysis & Meaning

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  • 0:03 Miracles
  • 0:45 Summary
  • 1:51 Analysis
  • 3:14 Meaning & Message
  • 3:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Carnevale

Jennifer has a dual master's in English literature/teaching and is currently a high school English teacher. She teaches college classes on the side.

Miracles can be defined as divine interference to something improbably surprising. In this video we'll summarize and analyze Walt Whitman's poem 'Miracles' and delve into the depths of its meaning.

Miracles

Do you believe in miracles? If so, what do you consider a miracle? Some might say a patient walking again after paralysis, a struggling family winning the lottery, or a favorite sports team coming back after a major point deficit to win the championship game are miracles. It seems even the term is defined in several ways. Some definitions allude to holy connotations, while others describe the improbable coming to fruition.

In this video, we'll explore the meaning of ''Miracles,'' by Walt Whitman, which will provide you with yet another example of what it means to witness a miracle. This poem may change your definition and perspective.

Summary

''Miracles'' opens with the question of ''Why, who makes much of a miracle?'' which sets the tone for the remainder of the poem. The poet then describes several moments and things that he believes are miracles because he ''know(s) nothing else but miracles.''

For example, the poet describes the pleasure of walking, both in Manhattan and on a beach with his feet in the sand. He talks about standing under trees in the woods, and how much he not only enjoys talking and/or sleeping next to the people he loves, but also eating dinner or seeing people while out on the streets.

Next, the poet transitions back to nature, including the sights of animals feeding, bees buzzing around a hive, and birds and insects roaming the air. He then goes on to describe the beauty of a sun setting, the stars, and the moon.

When the poet is finished with his descriptions, he says that each of these things is, in its own way, a miracle to him, like the way that day, night, space, and time seem to work together in harmony.

He ends with the question, ''What stranger miracles are there?''

Analysis

The poet poses a question at the beginning and the end of the poem, first asking the reader, ''Why, who makes much of miracles?'' Yet it's clear from the use of the personal pronoun 'I' that the understanding of miracles must come from the individual perspective, although the poet implies that all aspects of life itself are in fact miracles.

The references to nature are another important aspect of Whitman's message, including the transition from day to night, the body's ability to move and sleep, animals, foliage, and insects. All of these activities and living things can be explained, but the notion of 'why' is the wonder that is being looked at here.

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