Emily Dickinson’s Use Of Figurative Language And Symbolism In Her Poem Hope Is The Thing With Feathers
Aristotle once said, “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, moreover history only the particular” (Aristotle). A woman like Emily Dickinson, who became well-known after her death in 1886, where her family found almost 1,800 poems, which most of them are known throughout the poetic world. Ms. Dickinson was the first born on December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts. Emily Dickenson lives as a homestead with her family. At a young age, she stopped attending school, Emily had a sudden emotional crisis moreover would shut down. That is when her father decided to take her out of school. Her family lives a life as a homestead. While being at home, moreover having nothing to do she still manage to find time to write her poetry.
No one ever knew what she was up too Emily kept it a secret for so long. Emily had three siblings, which included William Austin, Emily and Lavinia Norcross. When her poetry was founded by her sister Lavinia, after her death. Emily Dickinson’s style of her poems was free verse during the Victorian period, her influence was Ralph Waldo Emerson and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. She also used many poetic devices in order to control the reader’s emotions. Dickinson’s main themes that she wrote about being death and nature. She also applies symbols so that her readers could think about the poems in a different way. Her alma mater being Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (Emily Dickinson, 2018). Her main subjects that her poems were about being the social positions, science vs. religion, feminism, industrialization and utilitarianism.
Emily Dickinson was known to write a lot of free verses for her rhyme scheme, type of poems she wrote, the meter she wrote in moreover her specific style. Her rhyme scheme was ABCB, which meant that most of them were in quatrains, iambic tetrameter moreover then iambic trimeter. She used this style, in order to create a constant rolling off the tongue for the reader. Emily had a very unique way of writing to a lot of her poetry she uses random capitalization, moreover dashes to set her apart from other poets. “She uses the dash to emphasize, to indicate a missing word or words, or to replace a comma or period’ (Emily Dickinson).
Emily Dickinson also capitalizes nouns for no reason. ‘She leaves out helping verbs and connecting words; she drops endings from verbs and nouns. It is not always clear what her pronouns refer to; sometimes a pronoun refers to a word which does not appear in the poem. At her best, she achieves breathtaking effects by compressing language’ (Emily Dickinson). Emily Dickinson also changes the function of a word. When she is being all alone in seclusion, she would read the Webster’s Dictionary, which is why her poems use very different words in weird ways (Emily Dickinson). ‘Dickinson uses identical rhyme (sane, insane) sparingly” (Writing Style – Emily Dickinson’s Extravaganza). This supports that it allows for the reader to be compelled to reread it a couple of times, in order to understand it a bit better.
Nevertheless, her writing influences Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Ralph Waldo Emerson, but also influenced by Transcendentalism “and the mid-century tendencies of liberal Protestant orthodoxy.” (Habegger). With Emerson and Transcendentalism, this encouraged her with the understanding of the religious truth, symbolically and her true potential as a poet. “Two of Barrett Browning’s works, ‘A Vision of Poets,’ describing the pantheon of poets, and Aurora Leigh, on the development of a female poet” (Habegger) were how Dickinson was given the idea of feminism and it also gave her ambition. Although research may not have a lot of information based on who exactly influenced Dickinson and how she used their lives or works to help her, but what is known is that people like Emerson and Barrett Browning were an enormous part of who she was as a poet. People of her youth like Benjamin F. Newton, Susan Gilbert, and Henry Vaughan were the ones who introduced Emerson and Barrett Browning, which means that they were the ones who cultivated her influences.
Accordingly, her main poetic devices used were assonance, metaphor, concrete imagery, consonance moreover personification. The point of the use of assonance was to grab the reader’s attention so that they won’t forget something Dickinson doesn’t them to forget. “By those who ne’er succeed.” (Success), this quote uses the assonance with the ee’s, this grabs the reader’s attention, meaning Dickinson wants the reader to remember this line. She also applies the use of metaphors in order to draw a comparison between two different things. “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” (I felt), this is an example of a metaphor where she is comparing a funeral to symbolize the speaker’s feeling of death. Dickinson also applies the use of abstract moreover concrete imagery, words like, “Drum”, “beating- beating”, “heard”, “creak”, and “Silence” (I felt) are all examples of how she used concrete imagery for the readers to imagine the vision that she has created. Dickinson applied consonance, in order to create a writing effect. “Wild night- Wild nights!” (wild), with this poem, the consonance was with d and s, and it gave a rhyming feel for the line. Lastly, Dickinson personifies her poems, in order for the reader to create a connection with the object or thing that has been personified. “Because I could not stop for Death-/ He kindly stopped for me-”. (Because)
One thing that Dickinson is known for is her central themes, death and nature. In her poem “Because I could not stop for Death-”, she wrote about how death seduced her by personifying him as a gentleman and being kind “He kindly stopped for me” (Because), years later, “Since then- tis’ Centuries- and yet/ Feels shorter than the Day/ I first surmised the Horses’ Heads/ Were toward Eternity-” (21-24), she realized how much death wasn’t how she expected it to be. The speaker is going through a transformation of understanding of death from welcoming and pleasant to hatred and cold.
Her other central theme is nature. Dickinson’s most well- known poem that spoke about death was “I taste a liquor never brewed”, when she wrote this it spoke about her love for nature and the way it made her feel, it made her intoxicated on the nature. She’s intoxicated by the feelings she feels by the dew, the air, and the blue skies. It is also seen in “A Bird, came down the Walk-”, where the speaker clearly observes the elegant movements of the bird, but doesn’t mind detailing the natural way of biting the worm in order to consume it.
Throughout her many poems, she applies different kinds of symbols, one major symbol she applies is the symbolism of light. She displays her interest in the different ways light appears and the position it plays upon objects. For example, “To see the little Tippler/ Leaning against the- Sun!” (I taste), the sun is the source of all light, and this is the ultimate goal of the speaker in this example. But she also implies that light can represent knowledge and understanding, “Too bright for our infirm Delight”, “Or every man be blind” (Tell), this is because the light is being represented for the truth and in this poem, the speaker implies that if a person is to tell all the truth all at once, it may be too much for a person to be able to withstand.
Because of her love for nature, another symbol used by Dickinson is the sea. Usually when she applied the different aspects of nature, it was comforting and friendly, which she associated with the land and vegetation. But the sea, it was “treacherous, forbidding expanse that must be safely transversed” (course hero), this meant it was pointing out the wildness and intensity that was vastly seen as threatening. In “Wild nights- wild Nights!”, the speaker wants to travel safely across the sea in the thing that is her love, without getting hurt, also in “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers-”, like in “Wild nights- wild Nights!”, it would represent the same way that the “strangest Sea-/ Yet- never- in Extremity” (hope).
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