Essay, Research Paper: Emily Dickinson 


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Emily Dickinson lived in an era of Naturalism and Realism (1855-1910). She lived
in a period of The Civil War and the Frontier. She was affected by her life and
the era she lived in. She also had many deaths in her family and that’s part
of the reason that she was very morbid and wrote about death. Emily Dickinson
grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts in the nineteenth century. As a child she was
brought up into the Puritan way of life. She was born on December 10, 1830 and
died fifty-six years later. Emily lived isolated in the house she was born in;
except for the short time she attended Amherst Academy and Holyoke Female
Seminary. Emily Dickinson never married and lived on the reliance of her father.
Dickinson was close to her sister Lavinia and her brother Austin her whole life.
Most of her family were members of the church, but Emily never wished to become
one. Her closest friend was her sister-in-law Susan. Susan was Emily's personal
critic; as long as Emily was writing she asked Susan to look her poems over.
Emily Dickinson was affected by her life for several reasons. One of the reasons
was that she was never married, though she went through many serious
relationships, she never settled down. Another reason that she was affected by
her life was that her mother was not “emotionally accessible”. She was not
close to her mother and never shared any of her feelings with her, which most
daughters feel they can. This might have caused Emily to be very weird and
strange. The Dickinson children were also raised in the Christian tradition, and
were expected to take up their father’s religious beliefs and values without
any fighting or arguing. Emily did not like than she can not chose for herself
her own beliefs and religion. Emily did not enjoy the popularity and excitement
of the public life, unlike her father. So she began to pull away from it. In the
presence of strangers Emily could be shy, silent or even depreciating. Emily
felt that she did not fit in with her and her father’s religion in Amherst
especially when he father started to censor the books she read because of their
potential to draw her away from faith. Emily had no extended exposure to the
world outside of her hometown. Besides the one trip she took to Philadelphia
(which was only due to her eye problems) and occasional trips to Washington and
Boston. On her trip to Philadelphia Emily met Charles Wadsworth, a clergyman,
who became her “dearest earthly friend”. Just like Emily he was also a
solitary, and a romantic person that Emily could confide in when writing her
poetry. His religious beliefs also gave Emily a sharp, and often welcome. He was
a very influential and was a big source of inspiration and guidance. She also
met a man by the name of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, who was also very
influential to Emily. He advised Dickinson against publishing her poetry, even
though he saw the creative originality on her poetry. He remained Emily’s
“preceptor” for the rest of her life. But Emily decided against publishing
her poems, and as a result only seven of her poems were published in her
lifetime (she left behind over 2,000 poems). Emily Dickinson was affected by her
era. When the United States Civil War broke out there was a lot of emotional
confusion, and she began to express this in her poems. Some changes in her
poetry came directly as a result of the war. Even though she looked inner and
not to the war for the material in her poetry, the tense atmosphere of the war
years may have contributed a lot to her writings. After the war she started to
look at things through a black vale, and began to be very dark and gloomy. But
probably one of her best poems was written during this periods of decline. It
was called “A Route of Evanescence”. This poem described the fluttering rise
of a humming bird. This unpredictable rise was also the route of experience.
Emily’s life started to go down from this point and nothing good was happening
for her anymore. There were many points in her life where she was not happy and
actually very few points were she was happy and satisfied with her life. She
expressed all this in a poem she writes called “Crumbling in not an
instant’s Act”. This poem’s tells how crumbling does not happen
immediately, but in a gradual process occurring slowly over time. The idea that
crumbling is progressive is supported when it state “Dilapidation’s Are
organized Decays”. This means that crumbling is a result of dilapidation,
which is caused by gradual decay. The deterioration that results is progressive:
one stage of decay leads to the next until crumbling occurs along and you
can’t even help it. In the poem it used the word “ruin”, which is the best
word for describing both physical and spiritual falling down. The literal
meaning of the poem is simple, ruin does not happen suddenly. It has a gradual
process that is a result of gradual decay. Every type of ruin takes time, even
though one may take more time than others. This poem describes Emily’s life.
In the beginning, when she was a young child, living at home, she was unhappy
with her family and social status. And after turning 30, seldom saw anyone than
her immediate family. And this was the beginning of her crumbling; She had many
serious eye problems that throughout her life had to get treatments for it. She
was never married. She had so many deaths in her family and close friends. So
from here we see her gradual decay. Emily Dickinson was very morbid and wrote a
lot about death. Her whole life she lived across the street from a cemetery
which can explain why most of her poems are associated with death. She did so
also because she spent the later part of her life mourning of the several deaths
in her family and of close friends. Her father died in 1874, Samuel Bowles died
in 1878, J.G. Holland died in 1881, her nephew Gilbert died in 1883 and both
Charles Wadsworth and her mother died in 1882. Over those five years, many of
the most influential and precious friendships of Emily’s passed away and that
gave way to the obsession of death in her poetry. One of her poems where she
speaks about death is “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”. Here Dickinson
tells a story of a woman who is being taken away by death. ”Because I could
not stop for death- He kindly stopped for me”. The speaker in the poem tells
us that she will not stop for Death but that it will have to come and get her.
In the end death came and took her away but it’s pleasant and peaceful. It
talks about her way to heaven and that in the beginning she wasn’t ready to
die but once it came it wasn’t that bad. I think that in this poem she is
actually talking about her own death. And that she was afraid to die but once it
came it wasn’t that bad. On June 14, 1884 Emily’s obsessions and poetic
theory started to come to a stop when she suffered the first attack f her
terminal illness. Throughout 1865, Emily was cramped to her bed in her
family’s house where she had lived her entire life, and, on May 15 1886, Emily
died at the age of 56. One poems that I came in contact with was called “ I
hard a Fly Buzz when I died” and this was one of many where she spoke about
death. In this poem it talks about a women who is lying in bed with her family
and friends standing all around waiting for her to die. And when is t says “ I
heard a fly buzz when I died” is the moment death arrives. And the fly
represents the world being left behind. While the dfamily is waiting, she is
waiting for “the king”. This symbolizes some sort of god that will take her
away. From here we see that the women is distancing herself from her fear of
death and detachment or attachment of life. As the women dies, her eyes fail and
she saw nothing. The women’s soul drifted off into nothingness because there
was no after life for it to travel to. She no longer cared for materialistic
things; all she wanted to leave behind was good memories and good thought of
her. The poem represents a typical death seen from Dickinson’s time, it had
people surrounding the deathbed looking on and studying the person soul fate. I
think that the woman in the poem is actually talking about Emily and the
previsions to her death. Emily Dickinson was considered one of the two most
gifted poets (Walt Witman was the other one). She was influenced by the writings
of American author Ralph Waldo Emerson. Some people may think Emily Dickinson
was a morbid person, but indeed she was only writing about what was going on in
her personal life, and what was going on in society at those times.

The World Book Encyclopedia (Volume 5) EMILY DICKINSON USA, Copyright 1987
John Malcolm Brinnin EMILY DICKINSON New York, Copyright 1960 EMILY DICKINSON
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