How Emily Dickinson's Life Affected Her Poetry

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Emily Dickinson was a 19th century poet from Massachusetts who did not become famous until decades after her death. Looking back at her poetry, she was especially infatuated with death and religion. It would make perfect sense then that her poetry was influenced greatly by her own feelings of depression and loneliness. Emily Dickinson’s work is unique because of the poetic devices she uses, like irony, symbolism, connotation, imagery, and personification, and the recurring themes of death, religion, and nature. The following poems are related because they all share Dickinson’s common literary devices and themes.

In “Safe in their Alabaster Chambers”, Emily Dickinson primarily uses irony and symbolism as a literary technique. In the first stanza, Dickinson describes the dead as being “safe” in their coffins. It is ironic to say that the dead are safe because they are not living and prosperous, but rather deceased and lifeless. Dickinson’s poetry was often based on religion. She was a Christian, therefore believing in life after death. In lines 2 and 3, Dickinson calls the “sleepers,” or the dead, "members of the resurrection.” This is ironic because these terms refer to the Christian religion that says they would rise to heaven after their life on earth, rather than being stuck buried underground. This raises the question of how exactly did Emily Dickinson feel about life after death and her own religion? In the last paragraph, Dickinson describes nature and the world above as having no affect on the dead buried underground. When she says, “Babbles the bee in a stolid ear/Pipe the sweet birds in ignorant cadence,” she means that the “stolid” ear is indifferent or unresponsive to the living, and the birds are ignorant because they know nothing of the dead. This is another example of using the literary technique of personification by giving death personal, or human, qualities. Dickinson’s word choice is specific in that certain words have connotations. For...
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