O Captain! My Captain! and the Unholy Ghost of Suicide

by Rachel Baker on August 15, 2014

One of my favorite films is the 1989 classic Dead Poets Society. In it, Robin Williams tells his students to call him “O Captain, My Captain”. Below is an interesting article and call to action (last paragraph) about suicide and this particular Walt Whitman poem.

In the introduction to Quack This Way — the remarkable record of Bryan Garner’s wide-ranging conversation with David Foster Wallace — Garner makes a passing mention of the email address Wallace used in their correspondence: ocapmycap@… The email provider following the @ symbol changed over the years, but Wallace kept his moniker — one that takes on a special, wistful meaning in light of his subsequent suicide.

It was an allusion to Walt Whitman‘s 1865 elegy “O Captain! My Captain!,” a mourning poem for Abraham Lincoln titled after its piercing refrain:

O Captain! My Captain! David Foster Wallace, Robin Williams, Walt Whitman, and the Unholy Ghost of Suicide

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