What is becoming somebody like? and What is a bog?Emily Dickinson's "I am nobody, who are you?"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Emily Dickinson's poem, "I'm nobody, who are you?" is delightful verse about the bombastic:



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!


The reclusive Emily Dickinson declares with pride that she is a nobody, but cautions her listener that he/she must be quiet since they will be "banished" is found out.  How bothersome, she states, it must be to be a "somebody," a person who is well-known and in the public eye; this is someone who must announce him/herself and be vocal constantly--like a croaking frog in a swamp (bog).  [in shallow places of water like swamps, wet-weather frogs and bull frogs croak all night in a cacophony of sound.]  The word bog is a better choice than swamp since its connotation adds to the meaning of the poem.  For, the suggestion of becoming stuck--being "bogged down"--in one's egotism underscores the meaning of this poem.

As in many of her poems, Dickinson uses nature to reflect her spiritual life.  The humble and quiet worshipper is often the better Christian than the Pharisee who praises his good deeds along with praising his Lord.

The reader is reminded of Stryver and Sydney Carton of Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities.  Carton who is the genius of the law partnership allows his fellow barrister, Stryver, to be the vociferous and vocal one in the courtroom and in the public places.  Content to do the reasoning and observations necessary to win cases, Carton retires from life to work as "the jackal" for the "becoming" of Stryver, "the lion, who is a man of prestige and reputation.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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When people refer to becoming somebody they are referring to the person beginning to recognize his or her own strengths and acting upon them.  People often live their lives in search of their identities.  It is the search many begin in adolescence.

Another statement and manner in which the figure of speech meaning becoming somebody is used is to state that the person is becoming famous or achieving a goal that it recognizable to others as an achievement.

A bog is a swamp area that causes a person or objects to sink into when stepped upon.  Sometimes people seem to function as if their mind is in a bog, meaning they are in a foggy state that is pulling them mentally down.

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