AP Lit – 4
23 January 2012
Shades of Darkness
For different people darkness has many unique personalities. Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson both have experience with the darkness, but do not share a common opinion of the night. Through the use of imagery and language, the two poems reveal how each author experiences darkness and the night.
The voice of Emily Dickinson’s poem uses a broad “we” (ll. 1) when speaking, automatically bringing in the idea of companionship. In this new experience of darkness, “we uncertain step/for newness of the night” (Dickinson ll. 5-6), the persona can share in changing with the darkness with her peers, allowing for a hopeful and lighthearted tone that is sorely lacking in Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night”. In his poem, one solitary speaker walks away from civilization beyond the “furthest city light” (l. 3). In this case, absolute darkness parallels solitude in the sense that lights represent company. Because of the speaker’s loneliness, the poem’s tone possesses a bleak, somber quality mirrored in adjectives like, “saddest” and “unearthly”. The speaker purposely excludes himself from the company of others, while Dickinson’s speaker uses the presence of others as a learning experience.
The imagery in Dickinson’s poem is accentuated by the word choice, which provides vibrant images of total darkness, “Those Evenings of the Brain” (l. 10), that represent ignorance of youth. In an extended metaphor, Dickinson compares learning experiences to adjusting visions to the dark. The amusing image of someone wandering the dark and smacking into a tree “directly in the forehead” (Dickinson l. 15) lightens the tone of the poem by adding the maternal air of someone watching over the somewhat clumsy attempts at sight of another. In Frost’s poem, however, the only other people present have none of the warm images of Dickinson’s. The narrator in “Acquainted with the Night” drops his...
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