Emily Dickinson

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Emily Dickinson

Post  joannneee on Thu May 14, 2009 11:47 pm

I think Emily Dickinson is a very special person – she is both a Transcendentalist, and a non-transcendentalist. Through a few pieces of her poetry such as “Some Keep the Sabbath Going to Church” and “”Hope” is a thing with Feathers”, she brings the Transcendentalist qualities – unlimited potential for every human being, and the crumbling of all personal limitation imposed by society – to its extreme. In some ways, Emily Dickinson is almost like Thoreau, for she experiences poetry in its essence, rather than analyzing and trying to dissect every single section of it:

“If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. Is there any other way?”

Emily Dickinson has a free heart that understands and feels the potential all around her, but yet there Emily Dickinson also realizes many of the anti-transcendentalist qualities, as shown in her poems such as “”Faith” is a Fine Invention”, where she states that she believes in the wonders of faith but sometimes, it is necessary to trust the proven facts, rather than your intuition. In “I Took My Power in My Hands” Dickinson also writes of defeat of a person who rises against the World – it is almost as if she understood Ahab, and of his passion to hunt down Moby Dick. She expresses the same hope and belief in unlimited potential in “I Took My Power in My Hands”, but yet the hope spirals down to broken defeat at the end of the poem:

“I aimed my Pebble – but Myself
Was all the one that fell – “

This reflects the feeling of hopelessness that Ahab experienced when he was faced with the wreckage of his crew as well as the extremity and danger of the ocean. In these ways, Emily Dickinson could have been anti-transcendentalist as much as she could have been transcendentalist.

But yet Dickinson walks the fine line between both – she understands the central ideas of both Transcendentalists and Anti-transcendentalists. She secluded herself from the world when her love was left unacknowledged, and decided to watch from her window, of a world and society that she did not yearn to join. It would almost seem that she was torn between Transcendentalism and Anti-transcendentalism – she could not help but be hurt by society and its cold cruelty, but yet she did not wish to give up hope.

The vantage point from her house was a refuge – it was a haven that blocked the havoc from society, but it also ostracized her from the world. Her room almost seems to reflect, in a sense, her mentality: though she was safe from the cruel ropes of society, she was she was still hopeful that perhaps someday she would be able to immerse herself, once again, in the pure contact of beings. As in Emerson’s essay “Friendship”, I think Dickinson yearned for a “true friend”, one that she could open herself completely to. But yet society did not allow for that to happen, and as a result, she secluded herself from the world.

Some say that the truest geniuses are the ones that can withstand silence and seclusion – because this reflects the truest sense of peace in the soul. Maybe Emily Dickinson was like that; torn as she was between the two ideas, she still somehow managed to walk the narrow tightrope stretched without the two without toppling over. She walks her own path, and the way she is able to bring out such strong emotions from such writing in such a secluded room seems to stem from her ability to see the connection and bridge between the Transcendentalist views and Non-transcendentalist views. She herself understands and is tied between the two, and it is reflected deeply in her writing.
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Re: Emily Dickinson

Post  Vicky on Fri May 15, 2009 12:16 am

Hey Joey!

I’m grateful that I read your interpretation because you raised several points that I did not see myself. First, the connection that made between Dickinson’s statement “If I read a book and it makes my whole body so cold no fire can ever warm me, I know that is poetry” and her ability and need to feel the potential and emotion around her.

The correlation between Ahab and Dickinson’s poem “I Took Power in My hands” is another association that I did not make. It seems to capture Melville’s message in eight lines: we have such longing and confidence to search for the universal Truth, however, at the end of the day, our hopes come crumbling down at us.

Finally, I completely agree with you that Dickinson yearned for a true friend whom she can confide to. She was truly searching for a person whom she may be sincere with, and whom may converse with her without any hypocrisy.

In all, I think you did an awesome job analyzing Emily Dickinson’s views! Razz
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