"The props assist the House" is written in Emily Dickinson's poem number 432....what is being compared and what is the metaphor?

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timbrady's profile pic

timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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This poem compares the development of the soul to the process of creating a house.  When building a house, there are many "props" that assist in the construction.  And when it is complete, the house no longer recollects "The auger and the carpenter."

In a similar manner, the perfected life, presumably the product of many "props" and not something that just appears, becomes a soul through this process.

The comparison of the growth of the soul to the building of a house is interesting in that it reminds us that both are  processes, both require help "props," and both are more in their completion than the sum of all these props.

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lh80127 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

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“The Props assist the House.” When reading this poem, it is very important to understand the specific meaning of “Props” Dickenson intends. The meaning is: something that assists in the development of something else, in this case a house. It is also helpful to note that this poem is comparing the development of a house to the development of a person’s soul. Dickenson is arguing that the soul is not just something that can be developed without any help from the outside; rather it requires the assistants of props, just like a house cannot be built without the use of props. She says that once our soul is developed however, we often forget the help that was given to us. She does not seem to comment on whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, it is simply stated.  She then re-states that even the perfect became so with help, and not in and of their own accord. The last two lines of the poem act on two levels. On the first, they fit within the context of the rest of the poem. The imagery of the ‘Scaffolds’ dropping appeals to the image of the builder’s platforms being taken down, and the house being left alone. In this case, whatever helps the soul develop is taken away, and the fully developed soul remains. It does however act on another level, appealing to the imagery of the ‘Scaffolds’ as “A raised wooden platform used formerly for the public execution of criminals” (Google Dictionary). In this sense, she is saying that the soul’s existence is not evident until the destruction of the body, wherin a person realizes they are still alive (which would indicate they have some sort of immortal soul). This does not fit the context of the poem quite as well, but does reflect an opinion that possibly philosophers efforts to prove the existence of the soul are in vain.

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