An Examination of the Poem, The Chambered Nautilus by Oliver Wendell

In the poem, “The Chambered Nautilus”, written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, he tells the fate of a nautilus to show us that we should live our lives like everyday like its our last and that we should move forward from the past. To prove his moral, he tells the fate of a nautilus by giving it human qualities and using personification to show how it lives its life and not dwell on its past. Homles uses personification in this poem to compare how the nautilus’ shell is like our very own human bodies and that we should live life everyday like its our last and move forward from the past. The first line that he uses to give the nautilus human qualities is when he says“. As the frail tenant shaped his growing shell. Before thee lies revealed-its irised ceiling rent”. Homles shows that after the nautilus is lured by the singing sirens, the sea nymphs, the shell breaks in half and reveals the chambers which the nautilus lived almost like how an actual person, or a tenant, rents and moves into different apartments like how the nautilus moves into different chambers as it shells gets bigger and bigger. Holmes proves to us that this helps the poems subject because it demonstrates that we move forward from the past like how the nautilus moves into its different chambers. Another example of Holmes using personification in this poem is when he shows us how the nautilus dies from the tempting nymphs.“ Where the Siren sings, And coral reefs lie bare, Where the cold sea maids- rise to sun their streaming hair” . Holmes compares the ugly sea nymphs, who disguise themselves to beautiful sea women, or in this case cold sea- maids, to tempt and lure the nautilus to come to them but in return making him crash causing the nautilus’ shell to break. Lines five to seven gives us an idea that its important to the poems subject because it shows us how the sea nymphs caused the nautilus to die when they “sun their streaming hair” as if they were basking in the sun.

And finally, another example of giving the nautilus human qualities is when Homles says.“ Stole with soft step its shining archway through.” Like mentioned earlier, Homles compares the nautilus to a tenant moving to different apartments. But in this stanza he usues personification by giving the nautilus the ability to walk through its chambers like it were archways as if the nautilus is taking baby steps into its new life. Its like the nautilus built up a door to the new chamber and stretched its way out of the old chamber and forgot everything that happened in that old chamber. Holmes proves to us that this part of his poem is significant to the poems subject because it shows that we take one step at a time to move ahead and not to stay so focused on the past. Homles uses personification in this poem to compare how the nautilus’ shell is like our very own human bodies and that we should live life everyday like its our last and move forward from the past. He used examples to compare the nautilus and other objects to human qualities. Holmes makes as if the nautilus’ shell is like our very own bodies and that our minds is the one that controls our shells, or body’s. We shouldn’t be afraid to shed our “shells and be free. Instead, we should move on and live life.

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