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Emily Dickinson

By Mi1latime Feb 08, 2012 753 Words
Emily Dickinson was one of the most innovative and original poets in American history. Her writings were very individualistic taken from both her external and internal world. They explored many themes of great importance to her. The mystery surrounding life, death, and mortality; issues with faith, religion, and nature are some of her more prevalent themes. Rejecting convention, Dickinson fractured from the traditional, structured iambic pentameter widely used throughout the nineteenth century. Her unconventional style alone was not all that contributed to the respect and genius which set her apart from her contemporaries. Her poems were personal and original, utilizing literary devices such as symbolism and metaphors, slant rhyme, alliteration, and assonance. Her often eccentric syntax, unusual punctuation and capitalization, contributed to a more modern and artistic style of poetry not overwhelmingly accepted in her time. It is by these methods; Dickinson explores universal ideas by imaginatively and smartly discussing them using concrete details, and reciprocally using these details to make a more universal, abstract point.

In poem 324, Dickinson chooses to explore her ideas of worship and faith in God and heaven. She compares her own practice with that of institutional religion. Perhaps in the spirit of Emerson, this poem conveys an almost sarcastic tone showing some contempt for the establishment of the time. In the stanza, people of a congregation are referred to as “Some” who “keep the Sabbath going to Church-“ and Dickinson breaks from the conformity by worshiping God from “Home.” The next two lines mockingly describe a bird as her choir leader and an orchard as her church. The point is to be made that just because one does not go to church and engage in organized religion, one can and should enjoy the freedom to worship God in their own way. In the last two lines, “So instead of getting to Heaven, at last- I’m going, all along,” tells us more of Dickinson’s disagreement. The first implies the belief of the establishment that once they put in the work, by going to church, they “get” to go to Heaven, “at last.” The last line tells us such church going is not necessary in order to go to Heaven.

Poem 1129 explores the truth. It explains that the truth can be a powerful and dangerous thing if revealed in totality, so one must have faith; therefore the first line says to “tell it in slant.” This is the idea which emerges through metaphorical symbolism and simile. In the second line the capitalized “Circuit” could refer to a circular path, or journey along such a path returning to the starting point, as one takes from birth to death. Another definition I found was that a circuit can be a long deduction of reason. The second line says success in this way “lies.” Delight, in the third line, suggests a satisfaction of the mind, and the truth is a “superb surprise,” not something found on the path of reason. The truth is “Too bright for our infirm Delight,” so the poem could be telling us that the only way towards the truth is to have faith. Faith which will be “eased with explanation kind.” Faith that the “truth must dazzle gradually” and not forced upon us all at once. Without it, “every man be blind.”

The mystery that is the mortality and tragedy of human life, resulting in pain and sorrow, is the idea behind poem 1732. People come into one’s life everyday, but death and personal loss are also inevitable. In the first line the idea of life coming to a “close” is used synonymously with concrete physical death. The line also says her life “closed twice” before the end, suggesting immense emotional tragedies. In the third line, the capitalized “Immortality” probably refers to the afterlife. Dickinson questions if, in the afterlife, there could possibly be an event “so huge, so hopeless to conceive” as the tragedies from line one. It is impossible for her to imagine it. Using concrete details to support and convey a more universal abstract point is a good way to communicate in everyday life. These details allow the listener/reader to follow your ideas more clearly, make them more memorable, and are easier to grasp than naked ideas. Applying the abstract idea to concrete objects is an excellent way to learn. I can’t say the same for the opposite. It is a lot harder to take an abstract idea or point and imagine the concrete details associated with it.

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