What is the theme of "Hope is the Thing With Feathers"?
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The major theme of the poem is that in the human heart, hope endures, defeating despair despite overwhelming circumstances. Hope "perches" in our soul, ever present. It prevails even when there is no cause or reason to be hopeful:
And sings the tune without the words--
And never stops--at all--
Dickinson emphasizes that hope endures under the most difficult circumstances by extending her metaphor. She has heard the little bird's song "in the chillest land" and "on the strangest Sea." Even in times of greatest challenge, according to Dickinson, hope sustains us, keeping us warm. She does not take the position that hope is beyond defeat, but she maintains that it would require the very worst kind of storm to "abash the little Bird."
Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the Thing With Feathers," is the VI part of a much larger poem called "Life." The poem examines the abstract idea of hope in the free spirit of a bird. Dickinson uses imagery, metaphor, to help describe why "Hope is the Thing With Feathers."
In the first stanza, "Hope is the Thing With Feathers," Dickinson uses the metaphorical image of a bird to describe the abstract idea of hope. Hope, of course, is not an animate thing, it is inanimate, but by giving hope feathers, she begins to create an image hope in our minds. The imagery of feathers conjures up hope in itself. Feathers represent hope because feathers enable you to fly and offer the image of flying away to a new hope, a new beginning. In contrast, broken feathers or a broken wing grounds a person, and conjures up the image of needy person who has been beaten down by life. Their wings have been broken and they no longer have the power to hope.
In the second stanza, "That perches in the soul," Dickinson continues to use the imagery of a bird to describe hope. Hope, she is implying, perches or roosts in our soul. The soul is the home for hope. It can also be seen as a metaphor. Hope rests in our soul the way a bird rests on its perch.
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