October 27, 2014
CAS EN120 A1
Sense Versus Sensibility: Dickinson's Writing on Human Depictions of the Natural World Emily Dickinson conveys a variety of representations of the world, and the human depiction of the natural world. In two of her poems, Dickinson contrasts different ways in which the human ideal interpretations of the world differ from the reality. With "'Faith' is a fine invention" Dickinson portrays Faith as something that is made from man himself. Her poem begs the question of whether humanity sees Faith as a metaphysical factor in their lives, created independently from the likes of men, or something humanity created for its own use. Different from that question, yet still referring to the same theme, is her other poem, "A Bird, came down the Walk". This poem discusses a more predominantly shared view humans have of nature as a physical environment yet offers a more in depth glance of what that environment holds. This poem, however, forces readers and humanity to consider the role that they themselves have in the natural world, rather than the role everything else around them has, which was an idea more common for them to consider at the time. Dickinson's poems share a theme of the romanticization versus the reality of nature although they contrast in their differing overall messages. She represents in her poetry what humans romantically sense as nature and the natural world while allowing her readers to ponder upon the sensibility found in the analyzing of the works. "'Faith' is a fine Invention", though it was only four lines, elaborately discusses a depiction of a metaphysical factor in the natural world such as Faith. Although it is not the typical image that comes to mind when people discuss nature, Faith is an aspect of it that Dickinson explores. In her work, Dickinson analogizes Faith to a microscope and delves into the human interpretation of nature and science. Dickinson declares that "'Faith is a fine invention" (Dickinson 1) whereas "Microscopes are prudent" (Dickinson 3). This comparison of what is fine versus what is prudent comes across as quite contradictory, as obviously microscopes are an invention, while Faith is a natural emotion, some might even call it a phenomenon. With this analogy, Dickinson brings forth a view that the natural world is more than just forests and animals, it is the metaphysical, or something that humans can believe in, such as Faith. However, at the time Dickinson wrote this poem, Faith was not something that was welcomed to be openly questioned. That did not stop Dickinson from challenging the intentions of humanity in their regard towards Faith. Dickinson manages to make her readers stop and think about the actual role of Faith on earth with humanity. By doing this, she makes her readers realize that even though Faith is not natural in that it does not directly come from the earth, it is natural in that humanity has an innate interaction with it that helps shape the way humans see the world and how they understand it to work. Daniel Peck, a professor of English at Vassar College, elaborates on this idea by stating that "objects do not, by themselves, make a world, worlds are made by the interaction- the dance- of the creative self and the world" (Peck 512). Peck argues that Faith by itself, although a natural emotion and metaphysical factor of the world, does not shape our world, rather it is the human interaction with it, "the dance" as he calls it, that does. Were humans to treat Faith as an invention for their convenience, it would alter the way humanity shapes its world. This notion speaks to the human depiction of nature as a partner to humanity in shaping the world, rather than an independent and separate entity. As for "A Bird, came down the walk", Dickinson approaches the depiction of nature from a different viewpoint, a more common understanding of nature as animals and physical environment. In this poem, Dickinson discusses the experiences of a bird as it goes about a typical day. Beginning the opening stanza as a pleasant scene of a simple bird making its way down a walk, the poem quickly shifts its serene image to that of a more violent picture, painting in the readers mind how the bird "bit an Angle Worm in halves/ And ate the fellow raw," (Dickinson 3-4). This shift introduces a key message of the poem of nature being very flexible and unpredictable, and that message is emphasized later in the poem, as that same bird, who was just a predator in his world is soon portrayed as a prey with the image of its "rapid eyes,/ That hurried all abroad-/ They looked like frightened Beads" (Dickinson 9-11). This quick transformation of the bird's role in the poem emphasizes another one of Peck's arguments in that " The world we know through perception is a "flirting" world, a world of balance and symmetry" (Peck 507). With this idea, Peck is stating that our world and its nature is ever shifting, and that all aspects of the natural world can fluctuate, much like the bird's position in his walk. The idea of balance and symmetry can refer to the bird's , or any species', balance of being both predator and prey. Peck's argument combined with Dickinson's poem explores a depiction of nature as a part of life that is arbitrary and flexible, which can sometimes result in it being contradictory. As humans are attempting to understand nature, Dickinson's writing allows for reflection on their own changing roles in nature, from being predators to it, to being preys of it. This poem depicts a whole other set of depictions of nature than "'Faith' is a fine invention" from a human standpoint because of the human interaction that Dickinson symbolizes in this, rather than the simple relationship she symbolizes in the first poem. Both poems, however, share a common theme in their analysis of the human sense of the natural world versus the reality of it, which ultimately affects their sensibility towards it. With "'Faith' is a fine invention", Dickinson uses this theme to show the concept of faith as a metaphysical force, meaning it does not come from the ground of Earth itself, but rather it is an innate, metaphysical aspect of the Earth itself. This writing symbolizes the common depiction of the nature of Faith as an invention designed by humans for humans for their convenience, which was a common depiction humans had of Faith at the time the poem was written. Clearly Faith is not an invention, but Dickinson depicts it like so in an almost sarcastic manner to show that humanity actually does sometimes see Faith in an unnatural way in that, it was invented to benefit them. This shows the romanticization humans have of Faith as a natural part of the world as a metaphysical factor, and the reality of their common treatment of it as an invention. In "A Bird, came down the walk" Dickinson demonstrates this theme through the interactions the bird has in the world, and how those interactions shape its place in nature. Humans often had this depiction of nature that it was inferior to the human race, and their place on the natural food chain was set, when in reality, the human race is just as much prey as it is predator. "A Bird, came down the walk" depicts nature in a more commonly understood way than "'Faith' is a fine invention" through the use of real world imagery such as animals and the surrounding environments of the world. However, this use of multiple and contrasting depictions is beneficial with the juxtaposition of romanticization and reality, as the reader can clearly see how this concept occurs in more than one ideological illustration of nature. Dickinson's link of the natural world as that of metaphysical factors and environmental surroundings gives readers the ability to sense their depictions of the world between the romanticized and the reality. "'Faith' is a fine invention' offers readers an evaluation of the role that Faith has in humanity, and how its existence as a metaphysical force effects that role. "A Bird, came down the walk" on the other hand, gives readers a more intimate analysis of the natural world, as this poem shows in nature all animals' role in the natural world as flexible and arbitrary, including humans. With the assistance of critiques from Daniel Peck, juxtaposed, these two poems allow for a greater understanding of the variety of depictions humans have of nature and their sense the romancing the natural world, while also going deeper into the reality of these depictions and the sensibility behind them.