What rhetorical devices are used in "Tell the Truth but Tell it Slant" by Emily Dickinson?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In this poem the principal device that is used by Dickinson to present the message is comparison. This short but incredibly effective poem is built around a central analogy that compares truth to a blinding, strong light and suggests that in reality, the only way to "see" truth is to have it revealed obliquely rather than head on. This is why we must "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant" and why Dickinson maintains that the Truth is "too bright for our infirm delight." To see it head on would be to go "blind" in the face of the dazzling strength of truth. Thus the "Truth must dazzle gradually," and Dickinson endorses a gradual revelation of the truth rather than the outright, shocking and blinding revelation that can be so destructive. In her famous second line, she maintains that "Success in circuit lies," which means that succceeding in telling the truth actually should be a matter of skirting around the issue gradually rather than jumping straight in. Thus when we consider rhetorical devices, the comparison in this poem of truth to an intense, blinding light is what the poem is built around.

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