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An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poems

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/14/2012

Let me guess: your teacher wants you to write an essay that explains Emily Dickinson's poems, and you don't know where to start. That's why I'm here. I have compiled an analysis of Emily Dickinson poems to help you get started.

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    An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poems: I'm Nobody! Who are You?

    Feel free to explain Emily Dickinson poems on your own. Here's what I think.

    Observations

    1. Rhyme Scheme: a a x a x b x b
    2. The first two lines introducing "I" and "You" form a couplet. Form mirrors content.
    3. Situational Irony - most people want to be a "somebody," not Dickinson. She is relieved to find a kindred spirit who finds an admiring bog as something undesirable.
    4. Line 6: Simile comparing somebodies to frogs.
    5. "Bog" in line 8 is a pun. A bog is where frogs live. Bog also means something that slows you down, like a crowd. "Bog" also hints that nobody's really listening anyway.
    6. Lines 3-4 contain a warning from the speaker in the poem to the other nobody that if somebody finds out about their nobodiness then they could be banished. Where to? The bog, a suitable place for banishment.

    Analysis

    "I'm nobody! Who are you?" comments on the poet's desire to be left alone. She compares being somebody to being a frog that croaks all day without a response. Dickinson cautions her "nobody" friend, introduced to the reader in the opening couplet, the which structure establishes the two nobodies as people joined together, isolated, to not let the "somebodies" know who they are, for they will banish them to the bog, which symbolizes the crowd where "somebodies" congregate. In short, Dickinson comments on the human tendency to force/persuade non-conformists to follow the crowd.

    Note: Odysseus in Homer's The Odyssey understood the usefulness of being a nobody thousands of years before; unfortunately, he could not be a nobody for long.

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    An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poems: "Faith is a Fine Invention"

    Feel free to explain Emily Dickinson poems on your own. Here's what I think.

    Observations

    1. Rhyme Scheme: x a x a
    2. Meter: iambic trimeter
    3. Microscope is a symbol of science and practicality.
    4. "Gentlemen who see" may symbolize ecclesiastical leaders.

    Analysis

    "Faith is a fine invention" compares the man of faith with the man of science. Although faith comes in handy for leadership and guidance, it is necessary to be practical and rely on physical senses as well. The fast paced iambic trimeter and the traditional quatrain rhyme scheme give the poem a sense of being an axiom--the futility of faith, if not tempered by pragmatism.

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    An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poems: A Bird Came Down the Walk

    Feel free to explain Emily Dickinson poems on your own. Here's what I think.

    Observations

    1. Rhyme Scheme: x a x a. In the final three stanzas, the a's are off rhyme.
    2. Meter: Iambic trimeter except for the third line in each stanza, which is iambic tetrameter.
    3. The dash at the end of line 10 marks an abrupt change, the change from the bird doing what birds do to birds fearing human encroachment.
    4. Simile in line 11 - Bird's eyes are compared to frightened beeds.
    5. Metaphor beginning in line 15 of the bird's flight with the smooth movement of a boat.

    Analysis

    "A bird came down the walk" shows the disturbance caused by human encroachment on the world of nature. The first two stanzas employ a smooth-flowing meter and rhyme scheme as it describes a bird eating its breakfast and enjoying dew. The form and the mood of the poem change in stanza three as the bird is approached by a human, albeit a peaceful one. The bird becomes frightened, feeling something isn't quite right, emphasized even more by the use of off-rhyme in stanzas 3-5. The bird recovers and flees the scene gracefully. Dickinson accomplishes the contrast despite the ironical observation that the bird in nature, the beautiful bird, commits the violent act of biting a worm in half and eating it raw, whereas the frightening of the bird and the disruption of nature occurs with the gentle, kind act of offering the bird crumbs.

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    Further Reading

    For more analysis of Emily Dickinson poems, check out other articles in this series. For an explanation of how to do your own poem analysis, follow the link.

Emily Dickinson Study Guide

When I was in high school, my English teacher made us read Emily Dickinson. I loathed it. I'm older now and enjoy Emily Dickinson's poetry. I, however, don't want you to suffer as I did, so I made this Emily Dickinson study guide.
  1. Major Themes in Emily Dickinson's Poems: Death
  2. Emily Dickinson Quotes: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson Poetry
  3. An Analysis of Selected Love Poems by Emily Dickinson
  4. An Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poems
  5. An Analysis of Selected Emily Dickinson Nature Poems