The Burden of Grief's True Weight

Poetic Style Analysis on the works of Emily Dickinson

Language Style


Many metaphors are present throughout her poems,making clever comparisons that improve the poems greatly. All of these tie in well with the themes of somberness and grief by establishing comprehensible analogies for the messages Dickinson is trying to convey.

In ¨I Can Wade Grief - ¨, metaphors can be found repeatedly relating happiness to weakness. On line 4 it reads, ¨But the least push of Joy / Breaks up my feet-- / And I tip-- drunken--¨ (4-6). Another example includes, ¨Give Balm -- to Giants-- / And they'll wilt, like Men--¨ (13-14). The former claims joy intoxicates those who feel it and the latter how nourishment serves no challenge and weakens those of strong character.

¨As Imperceptibly as Grief - ¨ includes on lines 2-3, ¨The Summer lapsed away-- / Too imperceptible at last¨ and on lines 12-13, ¨A courteous, yet harrowing Grace, / As Guest, that would be gone--¨. These both relate to the grace of happiness and its disappearance as a season of nourishment retreated.

¨I Measure Every Grief I Meet¨ also contains metaphors, such as ¨I wonder if It weigh like Mine-- / Or has an Easier size.¨ (3-4) and ¨An imitation of a Light / That has so little Oil--¨ (15-16). These relate to the illusion of happiness and the severity of grief among various people, including the narrator's.

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Personification is another poetic device utilized found commonly in Dickinson's poetic works. These give non-living emotions or concepts characteristics that allow for them to match with the theme of the poems and play the role the author intends.

Both found ¨I Can Wade Grief -¨, ¨But the least push of Joy / Breaks up my feet--¨ (4-5) and ¨Power is only Pain--¨ (10) give characteristics to emotions. These include joy being able to 'push' a person to intoxication; or power containing only pain while also showing the prominence of the emotions together.

¨As Imperceptibly as Grief -¨ has examples of its own such as, ¨The Summer lapsed away-¨ (2) and ¨The Dusk drew earlier in--¨ (9). These examples are of times of a given day or year allowed the ability to physically fade away or draw closer as a replacement.

Examples in ¨I Measure Every Grief I Meet¨ include, ¨Death--is but one--and comes but once--¨ (27) and ¨Or would [years] go on aching still / Through Centuries of Nerve--¨ (21-22). Death is given the impression of actually arriving to some and serves as one of the many causes of grief; while years are said to ache through centuries, arguing that pain does not heal over time.

Syntactical Style

Line Breaks

Emily Dickinson has a very unique form of line breaks in her many poems. This style includes the use of dashes at the end of each line, effectively separating each phrase.

In ¨I Can Wade Grief -¨, these such lines can be spotted on almost every line. For example, the poem begins with ¨I can wade Grief-- / Whole Pools of it--¨ (1-2), in this case to expand upon the previous line.

Yet in ¨As Imperceptibly as Grief -¨, it is used at ¨Sequestered Afternoon -- / The Dusk drew earlier in --¨ (8-9) to incite contrast between two forms of figurative language at the point of a shift.

These can also be found in ¨I Measure Every Grief I Meet¨, where again they spark contrast in presented thought, ¨At length, renew their smile-- / An imitation of a Light¨ (14-15)

No matter where they are found across her works, line breaks serve as necessary pauses interrupting the readers's normal reading flow and causing them to dwell on emphasized phrases.

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Thematic Style

A common theme shared among Dickinson's poems is the power grief has over happiness in what seems to be one of the greatest inner conflicts. ¨I Can Wade Grief -¨ introduces the somber opinion of the illusion of joy to those who have little experience with it. Along with this, it argues that grief challenges people in contrast to the weakness of happiness.¨As Imperceptibly as Grief -¨ expands on this by relating happiness to be untrustworthy and a false sense of security. The final poem, ¨I Measure Every Grief I Meet¨, concludes the over-arching theme with the narrator's content in the realization she is not alone with these conflicts she faces. These poems seem to each represent different phases of a narrator's internal conflict with the empowerment of grief over happiness.
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