Dickinson's Writing Style

In Dickinson's Eyes......

The American Dream

-To get along with nature and purify her world, she also wished to stay with her

father and mother at home. She was alive during the civil war, so this inspired a lot 

of her writing.

"SUCCESS is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed." -

"Emily Dickinson grew up in a prominent and prosperous household in Amherst, Massachusetts. Along with her younger sister Lavinia and older brother Austin, she experienced a quiet and reserved family life headed by her father Edward Dickinson. In a letter to Austin at law school, she once described the atmosphere in her father's house as "pretty much all sobriety." Her mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson, was not as powerful a presence in her life; she seems not to have been as emotionally accessible as Dickinson would have liked. Her daughter is said to have characterized her as not the sort of mother "to whom you hurry when you are troubled." (VCU

A Hero

-  Pure, quiet, observant, youthful, respectful, generous. A person who can deal

 with life or death situations as an ordinary occurrence. 

"As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear        10
The distant strains of triumph
Break, agonized and clear"

"Choosing to live life internally within the confines of her home, Dickinson brought her life into sharp focus. For she also chose to live within the limitless expanses of her imagination, a choice she was keenly aware of and which she described in one of her poems this way: "I dwell in Possibility." Her small circle of domestic life did not impinge upon her creative sensibilities. Like Henry David Thoreau, she simplified her life so that doing without was a means of being within. In a sense she redefined the meaning of deprivation because being denied something--whether it was faith, love, literary recognition, or some other desire--provided a sharper, more intense understanding than she would have experienced had she achieved what she wanted: "heaven,'" she wrote, "is what I cannot reach!" This line, along with many others, such as "Water, is taught by thirst" and "Success is counted sweetest / By those who ne'er succeed," suggest just how persistently she saw deprivation as a way of sensitizing herself to the value of what she was missing. For Dickinson hopeful expectation was always more satisfying than achieving a golden moment." (VCU)

Figurative Language Used

- Rhyme, imagery, personification. Often, her poems rhyme every other line.


"There are, that resting, rise.

Can I expound the skies?
How still the riddle lies!"

 "Dickinson's poetry is challenging because it is radical and original in its rejection of most traditional nineteenth-century themes and techniques. Her poems require active engagement from the reader, because she seems to leave out so much with her elliptical style and remarkable contracting metaphors. But these apparent gaps are filled with meaning if we are sensitive to her use of devices such as personification, allusion, symbolism, and startling syntax and grammar. Since her use of dashes is sometimes puzzling, it helps to read her poems aloud to hear how carefully the words are arrange. What might seem intimidating on a silent page can surprise the reader with meaning when heard. It's also worth keeping in mind that Dickinson was not always consistent in her views and they can change from poems, to poem, depending upon how she felt at a given moment. Dickinson was less interested in absolute answers to questions than she was in examining and exploring their "circumference." (VCU)


- Mildly puritan, doesn't push it in her poems as much as Walt Whitman might

have. Her religion was more to observe nature around her.

"SOME things that fly there be,—
Birds, hours, the bumble-bee:
Of these no elegy.
Some things that stay there be,—
Grief, hills, eternity:         5
Nor this behooveth me."

"Both parents raised Dickinson to be a cultured Christian woman who would one day be responsible for a family of her own. Her father attempted to protect her from reading books that might "joggle" her mind, particularly her religious faith, but Dickinson's individualistic instincts and irreverent sensibilities created conflicts that did not allow her to fall insto step with the conventional piety, domesticity, and social duty prescribed by her father and the orthodox Congregationalism of Amherst." (VCU)

The Government

- Writing style was effected by the Civil War. Dark factors were often placed in

her works. 

"SOUL, wilt thou toss again?
By just such a hazard
Hundreds have lost, indeed,
But tens have won an all."


- Showed a lot of nature in her works. Observed of animals and the cycle of life.


A WOUNDED deer leaps highest,
I ’ve heard the hunter tell;
’T is but the ecstasy of death,
And then the brake is still

". . . . Dickinson found irony, ambiguity, and paradox lurking in the simplest and commonest experiences. The materials and subject matter of her poetry are quite conventional. Her poems are filled with robins, bees, winter light, household items, and domestic duties. These materials represent the range of what she experienced in and around her father's house. She used them because they constituted so much of her life and, more importantly, because she found meanings latent in them. Though her world was simple, it was also complex in its beauties and its terrors." (VCU

Human Nature

- Dark, Quiet, depressed from the war and a poor love life. Observant of Nature

and Life.

Angels’ breathless ballot         5
Lingers to record thee;
Imps in eager caucus
Raffle for my soul.

"Dickinson, however, withdrew not only from her father's public world but also from almost all social life in Amherst. She refused to see most people, and aside from a single year at South Hadley Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College), one excursion to Philadelphia and Washington, and several brief trips to Boston to see a doctor about eye problems, she lived all her life in her father's house. She dressed only in white and developed a reputation as a reclusive eccentric. Dickinson selected her own society carefully and frugally. Like her poetry, her relationship to the world was intensely reticent. Indeed, during the last twenty years of her life she rarely left the house." (VCU


Works Cited

"Biography of Emily Dickinson." Virginia Commonwealth University. Web. 19 Apr. 2010. <http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/eng384/emilybio.htm>.

"1. Success Is Counted Sweetest. Part One: Life. Dickinson, Emily. 1924. Complete Poems." Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.bartleby.com/113/1001.html>.

"3. Soul, Wilt Thou Toss Again? Part One: Life. Dickinson, Emily. 1924. Complete Poems." Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.bartleby.com/113/1003.html>.

"8. A Wounded Deer Leaps Highest. Part One: Life. Dickinson, Emily. 1924. Complete Poems." Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.bartleby.com/113/1008.html>.

"14. Some Things That Fly There Be. Part One: Life. Dickinson, Emily. 1924. Complete Poems." Bartleby.com: Great Books Online -- Quotes, Poems, Novels, Classics and Hundreds More. Web. 23 Mar. 2010. <http://www.bartleby.com/113/1014.html>.