Emily Holt Mrs. Meehan English 10, Pd. 61 May 2005 Emily Dickinson Emily Elizabeth Dickinson, was born on December 10, 1830 in the small town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily was born into a wealthy and well-known family. Living with her father, mother, sister, and brother, Emily went through emotional problems as a child. Her father, Edward Dickinson, was a lawyer, treasurer of Amherst College, and a member of Congress.
He was an orthodox Calvinist and he raised his family to be very religious (web). On May 6, 1828, Edward married Emily Norcross (Ferlazzo 11). Emily Norcross was a housewife and she also lived very religiously. She was very depressed for most of her life, which caused distance between her and the rest of her family. The distance with her mother actually caused Emily Dickinson to write that she "never had a mother" (web). On April 16 th, 1829 Emily's brother William Austin was born.
Emily and her brother constantly competed with one another because of the fact that they were both poets... Emily Dickinson's younger sister, Lavinia Norcross Dickinson, was born on February 28, 1833. Lavinia took the liberty of publishing Emily's poetry after she passed away. Emily attended school at Amherst Academy and Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (Ferlazzo 11). 1850 was the year that Emily first got her start in poetry writing.
Her first poem, "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi," was published in the Springfield Republican (Knapp 14). At the end of the Civil War, Emily Dickinson reduced the people she kept in contact with to only those she knew through Amherst. She dressed in nothing but white clothing and became a recluse. It is believed that Emily may have had an affair with Reverend Charles Wadsworth or Samuel Bowels (web).
While Emily was in seclusion, there were many Dickinson family battles being fought (web). Emily suffered great emotional troubles during 1861 and it is not known whether she ever fully recovered. Emily contracted Bright's disease at the age of 54. She died on May 15, 1886. Her poems were published by her sister, Lavinia, and her niece, Martha Dickinson Bianchi (web). The central themes of Emily's poetry were death, love, faith, power, nature, domesticity, immortality, limits of language, and love.
She showed violence with the use of allusions to volcanoes, shipwrecks, and funerals. Emily used references to the soul in over 100 of her poems. Emily Dickinson's religious beliefs, personal tragedy, and seclusion influenced her writing greatly. In her poem, "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers," Dickinson shows her struggle with friendship, religious beliefs, and the Civil War. This poem suggests that Emily is unsure of her religious beliefs, because the religion that is tied into it is inconsistent. In this poem, Emily does not reject her family's Christian doctrines, but she questions them.
The alabaster chambers symbolize the sepulchers of dead soldiers. The tombstones made of alabaster, a type of gypsum, in which they can finally rest in peace free from the temptation and the only way they may be reborn is through God's generosity. The alabaster symbolizes a lack of change over time (Knapp 95). This poem was one of only seven that were published in the Springfield Republican while she was alive. A version of "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers" sent to Thomas W.
Higginson had a second stanza that was different from the one published. This version suggests the use of ruthless power. Emily Dickinson clearly demonstrates her beliefs of God and her struggle with the Civil War in her poem, "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers" (Hollander 232). The influence of Emily Dickinson's life is predominantly shown through her poem, "This Is My Letter to the World," because of her despair and remoteness. Her poem was based mainly on her seclusion period. Emily wrote letters to her close friends that lived in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Writing and receiving letters, her only contact with the outside world, proved to be important to her through this poem. For example, the poem addresses "Sweet-countrymen," when she wants to be loved (Ferlazzo 125). This shows her need for communication even though she chose isolation. Emily learned that poetry gave her control and glory while still giving her the freedom she needed. It gave her companionship and strength that she used to protect herself from the difficulties of being alone (Knapp 183). The last stanza of the poem proves this through her "Hands I cannot see" (Selected Poems by Emily Dickinson) 19).
It displays the lack of relationship, yet her longing for it. "This Is My Letter to the World" also effectively reveals her despair from her possible lover's departure. The line "That never wrote to me," Emily expresses her grief of a former love not returning her letters. In her book, Her Letter to the World, Polly Longs worth introduces the insightful book with Emily's poem, "This Is My Letter to the World," to create a bond with teens who feel overlooked or isolated, similar to Emily Dickinson herself (2). Emily Dickinson conveys her despair and isolation through "This Is My Letter to the World." Emily Dickinson shows her contrasting views of death due to her parents' deaths, and portrays her religious views in her poems "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," and "I Felt a Funeral in My Brain" (Hollander 288, 236). "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," is a passage about the journey from one world to the next.
This poem shows that death can be courteous (web). The beginning of the poem is very casual and light-hearted using words such as "kindly," and is also ironic using the word, "immortality." The poem reveals a lady who is too content with her life that she does not respond to a gentleman's call; however, she eventually is compelled by his generosity to go with him (Ferlazzo 55). The suitor is symbolic of God, leading the way to her ultimate end (Knapp 92). They drive slowly through the park leisurely, as if they had as much time as they wished.
This ironic word usage sets the mood for the rest of the poem. Her new infatuation with his man grows as Dickinson uses transitional words to show passage of their life such as "setting," alluding to the sun. By the fourth stanza, she is catching a chill which shows her inevitable death growing near. She is covered in lace, a garment that would often be found on a dead woman's body.
As the carriage ride ends, the gentleman has gone. She realizes she had been "tricked, seduced, and then abandoned." However, her death was unavoidable and she accepts it gracefully (Ferlazzo 56). This poem is reflective upon the gentle death of her father. "I Felt a Funeral in My Brain," depicts a slow and tragic death, which is nothing less than terrifying. Believed to be an outside perspective of a New England funeral, the poem slowly moves from anguish, to slowly losing sanity, to building pressure and tension, and finally, isolation (Ferlazzo 90). Her original anguish could have been caused by the painful death of her parents.
Although she had a distanced relationship with her mother, the torment of her tragic death is still a factor. The auditory aspect of this poem is the focal point (Knapp 88). The setting of the funeral further dramatizes her despair. As she loses her sanity, the pressure and tension were also growing.
A beating drum helped set a mood for this growing tension, driving her slowly insane until it threatens to paralyze her mind. After the coffin is placed, the death bell from the church is rung, its sound acute to her, indicating her still growing insanity. Finally, there is silence. This silence marks her isolation.
The "plank of reason" broke and she "fell down." She is completely irrational at this point and will never recover (Ferlazzo 92). This poem is reflective upon the quick and brutal death of her mother. Clearly, Dickinson was influenced by the death of her parents and her religious beliefs in her poetry. Dickinson's brilliant poem, "There's a Certain Slant of Light," reflects her religious view, her semi-transcendental position, and her outlook on death.
The poem revolves mainly around her loss of faith over the years. The poem is transcending from innocent childhood, to a young girl looking for the answer to life, to a mature adult who is sure of herself. During this transition, Dickinson was realizing the true depth of her misery (Knapp 130-131). The setting of the poem is during the winter, symbolizing death and imminent end.
The light of winter is an ironic statement because instead of illuminating the soul, the light threatens the soul's existence. The darkening reflects on her inner darkness upon the subject of faith. God, often being associated with a light, is missing from Dickinson. Dickinson uses words such as oppressing, heft, hurt, scar, despair, affliction, and look of Death to create a mood of darkness and death. She also uses contradictory words such as "heavenly hurt" and "imperial affliction," a word displaying majesty with a word showing pain, to show the inconsistencies of her beliefs (Ferlazzo 116). The lines "Heavenly Hurt, it gives us / We can find no scar" shows the subtle inner changes through the lack of a scar or wound (Knapp 132).
The random capitalization in this poem is used to place emphasis on certain words (web). Dickinson personifies nature in the last stanza to show the superiority of nature. Her semi-transcendental view that a mystical bond exists between man and nature and that nature can show mankind its flaws is present through this poem. The "Landscape listens" and "Shadows hold their breath" as if waiting for something enormous (Ferlazzo 116). Emily Dickinson clearly shows her religious and semi-transcendentalist views along with her outlook on death in her poem, "There's a Certain Slant of Light." Because of her isolation and childhood, helping her ability to observe, Emily Dickinson displays her fear of nature in her poem, "I Started Early - Took My Dog," and her admiration for nature in her poem, "A bird came down the Walk."I started Early - Took My Dog" leads insight to the childhood and possible sexual rape of Emily Dickinson through the use of nature. The first two stanzas talk about a child who visited the Sea and took her dog, the dog representing companionship and loyalty.
The mermaids, a symbol of childhood pleasure, come out from the below. The frigate is symbolic of a feeling making its way through unconsciousness and unknown areas. A frigate is a defense ship reflecting on her desire for defense. The upper floor of the frigate symbolizes the mind and intelligence. The "Hempen Hands" invite the young child to enter the frigate; however, this act exposes her to danger of drowning physically or psychologically. Dickinson represents herself as a "Mouse," the way others view her, because of her seeming insignificance because of isolation.
From the third stanza on, a mood of terror is created, possibly indicating the rape of the young girl, or perhaps Emily Dickinson herself. "The Tide" is a destructive force that dictates the moon in this poem, an example of nature controlling everything around it, even nature itself. Ironically, the tide, a masculine force, is controlling the moon, a feminine force as opposed to the usual sense of the moon directing the tide. This also may signify the possibility of a rape. The tide seems to come after her and it went past her "simple shoe," past her apron, her belt, and her bodice, as well. These allusions to the body are welcomed at first by the narrator, comparing it to morning dew.
However, the terror overcomes the narrator in the fifth verse. The tide is given a gender, "he," and she is running away from "His silver heel." The Pearl mentioned in the fifth stanza stands for spiritual values, and the loss of this pearl is synonymous with a spiritual loss of soul and identity, further indicating a rape. Once she reached the town in the poem, she felt safer because "He" knew no one and no one would know. He took a "Mighty look at me," portentous to a feeling of conquest and superiority towards the young girl.
And then the Sea receded and left her alone. Intertwined with her childhood and adolescence was the actual devastation of natural powers. Dickinson felt her childhood had been disappointing and feelings of rage overtook her, alluding to a storm (Knapp 70-73). Dickinson also has admiration for nature because of its dominance over man through her poem, "A bird came down the Walk." The poem demonstrates a Darwinian struggle for existence theme. The first stanza is about an observer in the poem, most likely Emily's perspective, watching a bird.
The bird eats the worm, showing the dominance of the bird to the worm, enforcing the survival of the fittest theory. The bird also let a beetle pass in front of him, showing respect and almost human qualities of the creatures. The observer then tries to feed the bird, which goes into an immediate sense of danger and flies away. The observer is disappointed and angered at the bird.
This reaction could be caused by a possible lover upset or her gradual loss of friends over time (Ferlazzo 105-106). The contrast of views of nature reflects on her childhood and isolation period in her poems, "I started Early - Took my Dog" and "A bird came down the Walk." Emily Dickinson's writing reflects her religious beliefs, seclusion from the world, and tragedies in her life. Emily Dickinson went through a tough childhood with a separated mother and a political, hard-working, religious father (web). After going into seclusion at the age of twenty-three, Emily began to write poetry, seven of which would be published during her lifetime (web). In 1861, her two possible lovers both left Emily devastated when they moved away. Dickinson's poetry had many different ideas thrown into it, her preferred including death, nature, and religion (web).
These themes are present in her poems, "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers,"This is My Letter to the World,"Because I Could Not Stop for Death,"I Felt a Funeral in My Brain,"There's a Certain Slant of Light,"I Started Early - Took my Dog," and "A bird came down the Walk." In "Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers," Emily represents her hatred for war because of the willingness of the soldiers to die instead of enjoying the beauty of nature and her contrasting religious views (Knapp 95). Dickinson sent this poem to Thomas W. Higginson during the Civil War and it was published later by Bowels in the Springfield Republican, which disproves that her second stanza had anti-Christian principles. However, the version she sent to Higginson had a different second stanza with seemingly secular views (Ferlazzo 39). In "This is My Letter to the World," Dickinson shows her true seclusion from the world by observations and her disappointed love affairs. There were many indications within the poem that would suggest of her despair after her lovers and friends stopped writing, her only means of communication with the outside world (Ferlazzo 125).
"Because I Could Not Stop for Death" and "I Felt a Funeral in My Brain" show her opposing views of death based upon her parents' deaths, her father's peacefully, and her mother's sudden and harsh. Her religious standpoint lies in "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," having the suitor symbolize God (Knapp 92). "There's a Certain Slant of Light" exhibits similar views using strongly opposing words to show her contradiction of her views (Ferlazzo 116). "I Started Early - Took my Dog," and "A bird came down the Walk" show how her observations during her isolation gave her two contrasting views of nature and how her childhood and a possible rape affected her writing (Knapp 70-73). In conclusion, Emily Dickinson was a notorious poetess whose deep and heartfelt poetry will forever be remembered..