Discuss the use of irony in "I'm Nobody."

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In this poem, Dickinson speaks with the voice of a child.  As a child in society, especially in her era, you had no rights.  You are a possession of your parents to be trotted out and admired by their visitors, otherwise, you are kept quietly closeted in your room or nursery.

This poem could be considered as ironic if in fact, the child really wants to be admired and looked at by his/her parents and visitors. 

"How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog"!

Or is the author suggesting that children looking at adults feel that their lives are better and more genuine, because they don't have to mix in society and embrace the phoniness that can accompany certain social events?  Or is she saying that the children are being sarcastic and wishing that they could be noticed? 

In any case, the author seems to be commenting on both the role of children in society and that of the adults that are around them.  She is questioning society's value system. 

reidalot's profile pic

reidalot | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted on

Perhaps irony would be evident in Dickinson's statement that "I'm nobody" if, indeed, Dickinson had desired to lead a public life. However, as a recluse, Dickinson's humor rather than irony is evident in this poem as she illustrates, through simple language, the joy of being unknown. The poet prefers to lead an unconventional life as a 'nobody' rather than seek the fame and fortune for which the average man strives. The poet's careful use of childlike diction, "like a frog" and "admiring bog," mislead the reader into believing that Dickinson's thoughts are simple. Indeed,the irony lies in the reader believing this poem is for children, for it is not. Dickinson mocks the adult's  world need for fame.

kwoo1213's profile pic

kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

Here is the text of the poem, first of all:

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog! (www.beyondbooks.com)

First of all, irony is "a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated" (www.dictionary.com).

There are also various types of irony, including verbal irony, which is when the opposite of what is meant is said.  Verbal irony is evident in this particular poem.

shdezyn's profile pic

shdezyn | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The situational irony in this poem is that the poet was reclusive and preferred being unnoticed, and she also disliked fame and what it took to be famous - - croaking one's name out over and over to an "admiring bog" in order to remain in the public eye ... yet she turned out to be one of the most famous poets in American history.

barb-p's profile pic

barb-p | Elementary School Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

I feel that in this particular poem Emily Dickinson is using irony toward being depressed. Her own life showed that she chose to live alone with her family and was very content doing so. She did not need to be center of attention or live her life in public (which was her choice).

Emily Dickinson did not need attention from the world as an adult and was to convey this readers of the poem.

osmanyavasca's profile pic

osmanyavasca | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

The poem starts with a paradox in the first line and stating that she definately not one of them. The irony in the poem is that she does not want to be public and not to be surrounded by admiring bog but she accepts friendship of another who is likely to be her. She is kind of creating her own admiring bog though it is not the same as theirs. Also, she is scared to be banished and it is ironic for someone who wishes to be nobody yet at the same time scared to be banished by them.

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