Poetry

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Hannah Ostrow
Professor Janoff
Perspectives in American Literature
October 21, 2012
Midterm
Question #1
Emily Dickinson writes her poetry with startling different perspective, bold metaphors and similes, and deceptive simplicity. In each of her poems you can recognize her unmistakable personal voice. Her poems also often can be related to the human condition. You can especially see this in Emily Dickinson’s two poems “Much Madness is divinest Sense” and “”Hope” is the Thing with Feathers.”

In “Much Madness is divinest Sense” Emily Dickinson puts into words what she thinks madness is. That madness is often actually the truest form of understanding or “sense”. This poem relates to the human condition as it explains that as long as the majority of people view madness as insanity, it will be called madness. This poem is not just concerned with the outlook of judgments of “Madness” or “Sense,” it is concerned with the outlook of any judgments that have important consequences, and with who has the power to make them. You can hear Emily Dickinson’s personal voice when she talks about how the judgment of a person’s insanity is made “straightway”(with out delay), and only because this person chooses to “Demur” or doubt the majority. It makes one assume she is talking about herself, like she thinks people judge her and think she is “mad” just because she is or thinks differently than the majority around her. Again relating to the human condition, Dickinson goes on to explain that there is no slow, steady, rational process of judgment before this person is labeled insane and “handled with a Chain,” it is instead simply a hasty reaction, yet one that takes away the “insane” person’s freedom. She is saying that we as a society are very quick to judge and when we judge we judge harshly. The use of the word “Chain,” too, has a hint of violence to it, so it is not just a loss of freedom, but potentially a violent one. The central feeling of the poem is that Dickinson...
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