Literary Criticisms of Emily Dickinson\'s Poetry
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Throughout Emily Dickinson\'s poetry there are three main themes that she addresses: death, love, and nature; as well as the impact of "the word". When discussing these themes she followed her lifestyle and broke away from traditional forms of writing and wrote with an intense energy and complexity never seen before and rarely seen today. She was a rarity not only because of her poetry but because she was one of the first female pioneers into the field of poetry.
One of the most fascinating things about Dickinson\'s poetry is her overwhelming attention to detail, especially her "pin-point" insights on death. In "I\'ve Seen a Dying Eye," by Emily Dickinson, is a poem about the nature of death. A sense of uncertainty and uncontrollability about death seems to exist. The observer\'s speech seems hesitant and unsure of what he or she is seeing, partly because of the dashes, but also because of the words used to describe the scene. As the eye is observed looking for something, then becoming cloudy and progressing through more obscurity until it finally comes to rest, the person observing the death cannot provide any definite proof that what the dying person saw was hopeful or disturbing. The dying person seems to have no control over the clouds covering his or her eye, which is frantically searching for something that it can only hope to find before the clouds totally, consume it. Death, as an uncontrollable force,
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seems to sweep over the dying. More importantly, as the poem is from the point of view of the observer, whether the dying person saw anything or not is as significant as what the observer, and the reader, carry away from the poem. The suspicion of whether the dying person saw anything or had any control over his or her death is what is being played on in the poem. The main idea the poem is trying to convey is that death force itself upon the dying leaving them no control, and if something hopeful exists to be seen after death, it is a question left for the living to ponder.
Love is another prevalent theme in Dickinson\'s poetry. "The Love of Thee-a Prism Be\': Men and Women in the Love Poetry of Emily Dickinson," an essay by Adalaide Morris, a feminist critic, examines how Dickinson views love with an allegorical neatness created in her poem "The Love of Thee-a Prism Be" (98). Emily Dickinson believes that it is the prismatic quality of passion that matters, and the "energy passing through an experience of love reveals a spectrum of possibilities" (98). In keeping with her tradition of looking at the "circumference" of an idea, Dickinson never actually defines a conclusive love or lover at the end of her love poetry, instead concentrating on passion as a whole (99). Although she never defined a lover in her poems, many critics do believe that the object or focal point of her passion was Charles Wadsworth, a clergyman from Philadelphia
In her poetry, Emily represents the males as the Lover, Father, King, Lord, and Master as the women take complimentary positions to their male superiors, and many times the relationship between the sexes is seen in metaphor-women as "His Little Spaniel" or his hunting gun. The woman\'s existence is only contingent to the encircling
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power of the man (104). It could be noted that the relationship with her father created some of the associations that Dickinson used in her work-her father being involved in government, religion, and in control of the family.
Dickinson\'s linked imagery in her male love poetry focuses on suns, storms, volcanoes, and wounds (100). There are always elements of disturbance or extremes and explosive settings. There are also repeated examples of the repression of love causing storm imagery to become "silent, suppressed" volcanic activity-something on the verge of explosion or activity. Of course, in the repressed individual the potential for explosion or action can be very dangerous, and frequently in Dickinson\'s work this kind of love relationship ends of with someone receiving a wound (100).
Another underlying theme in Dickinson\'s poetry was nature. The Imagery of Emily Dickinson, by Ruth Flanders McNaughton, in a chapter entitled "Imagery of Nature," examines the way