Emily Dickinson

By Franco Summa


Emily Dickinson was a woman born in Amherst Massachusetts in 1830 and attended a female seminary for only one year. She never left the city of Amherst and was educated at the Amherst Academy from 1840 to 1847. In 1854, she met Charles Wadsworth who was the inspiration for most of her love poems. After leaving this man, she remained isolated and rarely ever left her house. She had very few visitors but the people who did visit had enormous impacts on her poems that she wrote. This is why she is so mysterious and misunderstood. Her poems weren't found until after she was dead by her sister. She wrote approximately 1800 poems in her life time but most of them remained unpublished until after her death in 1886.

Common Themes

Emily Dickinson had wrote over 1800 poems, most of them being about the individual needing to maintain integrity. Critics say that their was no other author of this time with so little interest with the social or political events going on in her time. She was isolated and stayed inside, so she focused on identity of people and status. Another major theme in her poems was death. She thought of life as eternal but could never figure out completely and was very curious about the topic. She had multiple understandings of death, some being gentle, some being menacing. She also wrote many poems based on love inspired by Charles Wadsworth. She corresponded regularly with the few friends that she had, using deep, emotional letters to convey her message and to show her care and affection. Dickinson utilized her talents in poetry, during the Romantic movement, to change and influence American literature and culture.The style of her poems were very unique and often extremely difficult to interpret. This is due to unusual compression, unconventional grammar, their strange diction and strained figures of speech, and their often generalized symbolism and allegory.

Major Works

Dickinson does not have one poem that is most famous, but she has multiple poems that are incredibly well known. Here are a few:

Hope is a Thing With Feathers

The speaker describes hope as a bird that perches in the soul. There it sings wordlessly without pause and it would take a terrible storm to quiet the song. Hope is also needed most during a storm so that's when you will hear it sing loudest. The speaker says they can hear the bird of hope but never once asks for anything from it.

Because I Could Not Stop For Death

This is one of Dickinson's most mysterious poems. She personifies death as a gentleman taking the speaker for a ride in his carriage. He takes the speaker through the different stages of life until the times when you are old and will die. The poem ends with saying that even though someone can die, their soul is eternal.

Nobody Knows This Little Rose

This poem is a great comparison towards life and death. The rose represents the human life. In life, you go through many obstacles and journeys. You give your all to the world but yet you don’t receive much back. When you are alive those who needs you will notice, care, and appreciate you. The bee and the butterfly needs the rose, this is a symbol of your friends and family. They need you so they love and cherish you. The bird and the breeze represent those who do not know you. They sometimes wonder about you but they just pass on by, like a breeze. You hasten from a far journey, means that you have been through many things in life. On its breast to lie means that after all you put up through life living in this world you have to lay down and give up on life. When you are dead, your death will only affect those who care for you. It will not affect those who don’t notice you in the world. So basically it is not that much of a big deal if you are dead and alive. It is easy for you to die because those who care will still be there and those who don’t care will remain not caring. The rose, you, give your all, your life, to the world yet not the whole world notices you.

That I Did Always Love

This poem is saying that love is life, and life is nothing without love. She is saying that she has always loved the receiver and that without love, there is nothing. With love, however, life is immortal. And if the receiver doesn't believe that she loves him, she will do nothing but suffer.

The Life and Death of Emily Dickinson.mov