30 March 2012
The Maverick: Emily Dickinson
According to psychoanalytic literary criticism, an individual’s personal life, general view of the world, and personal experience, such as past life tragedies and traumas, largely affect the product of his or her self-expression in terms of literature, poetry, and other forms of expression (Brizee and Tompkins). Emily Dickinson, a Massachusetts native, is widely acclaimed for her nonconformist-use of authentic writing styles which include, but are not limited to, poetic style, themes, symbols, motifs, and figurative devices. As a result of her revolutionary poetry which was the complete opposite of the poetry of her time, she went against the grain of established social norms and standards that drew intense criticism and no recognition by fellow poets and by society. However, it is Dickinson’s poetry that forever changed the world’s approach to modern poetry.
Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts, on December 10, 1830. Amherst, a mere fifty miles away from Boston, was an influential town centered on education that had its own institution of higher education: Amherst College (Pettinger). Her father, Mr. Dickinson, worked diligently and was rarely home. Mr. Dickinson was a local politician and governmental official. Moreover, he had political connections with regional government officials and often invited politicians to his home. As the father-daughter relationship weakened and grew apart due to the constant presence of strangers in Dickinson’s home, she gradually grew up to loath her father’s political lifestyle and to feel disconnected and disjointed from her parents especially her father. It soon intensified as her limited social contact with others elevated to absurd degrees.
The childhood life that Emily Dickinson experienced was one of a kind and unique but troubling in its own right. From an early age, Dickinson’s family was frequented with illnesses and health misfortunes. Dickinson family’s religious background, Puritanism, was dominant in her social life, activities, and relations with her relatives and friends. Citing the family’s religion, her father often prevented Emily Dickinson from accessing and reading certain literary texts such as promiscuous novels and text authored by non-religious individuals. This strategy used by her father prevented her from accessing poetry and writing, literature in general, of other poets and skilled writers of her period. However, her brother frequently smuggled volumes of books into their home, avoiding the father’s eagle eye, for Emily to use. Later in life, Dickinson became isolated from her community and was skeptical of her religious background, Puritanism, and society as a whole. Thus, her sardonic view of humanity and her obsession with personal life, while excluding the rather not significant part, social life, helped Emily Dickinson develop her revolutionary poetic style and distinct writing voice.
As shown by her early life, her teenage years, and the relationship that Dickinson had with her family and father, life history had a significant effect on her future profession both as a poet and a writer. During her late teenage years, Emily Dickinson befriended Benjamin Newton, a locally acclaimed writer and literary critic, who mentored Dickinson’s poetic writing(Pettinger).Through his mentorship and further research, she became familiar with and studied literary and poetic works of William Wordsworth and Ralph Waldo Emerson which would later inspire her(Pettinger). Her poetry career was also inspired and motivated by Thomas Wentworth Higginson. Thomas Wentworth Higginson was one of the few people who urged and encouraged Emily Dickinson to publish and make known her poetry. Higginson also motivated her to make her poetry and writing, at the time, revolutionary.
Past life events, and inspiration from distinguished figures, such as Benjamin Newton, would forever greatly influence...