Emily Dickinson's Poetry in Relation to Society

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Q: Poetry texts are powerful indicators of society's values. Discuss with reference to two or more poems.
Emily Dickinson's poetry powerfully indicates values of society of the time. It does this through its conciseness, its simplicity and its control. Indications of society's values are seen in many of Dickinson's poems, but they are especially noticeable in ‘It was not Death', and ‘Because I could not stop for Death'. In Dickinson's poem ‘It was not Death', she demonstrates how restricting and stereotyping society can be on an individual, and how society values the conformity of the whole community, even though they may not want to. In Dickinson's poem ‘Because I could not stop for Death', she is questioning society's values on religion and everlasting life.

Emily Dickinson's poems analyse her perception of the world and society, which is different to that of the commonly accepted, objective perception. The reader sees this perception in her poem ‘It was not Death', where Emily appears to perceive a world full of confusion and chaos. She also observes that society tries to place people into stereotypes, and feels that she herself is restricted to one.

The Figures I have seen
Set orderly, for Burial,
Reminded me, of mine –

Dickinson shows in these lines that her own life reflects that of a dead persons – it appears to be a living thing, but lacks something that makes it alive. It seems that life is a conventional pattern, and she is conformed in society just like the people in the coffins. She resents the way that in her society people were heavily placed into stereotypes.

As if my life were shaven,
And fitted to a frame

These lines express Dickinson's thoughts about the restrictions of her life in her society. The fact that her life was ‘shaven' seems to give the image of being cut down to size with a razor to fit her frame, and this is a very sharp image. It...
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