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What themes does the poem, "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" explore?

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dmos | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted January 28, 2010 at 2:37 PM via web

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What themes does the poem, "I'm Nobody! Who are you?" explore?

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted January 28, 2010 at 8:57 PM (Answer #1)

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I'm Nobody! Who are you? (260)   by Emily Dickinson
I'm Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too? Then there's a pair of us? Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know! How dreary – to be – Somebody! How public – like a Frog –  To tell one's name – the livelong June –  To an admiring Bog!

 

This poem  addresses the theme of outsiders and conformists. Dickinson is excited at the possibility that there may be another "outsider"--one whom she thinks of as more interesting than the people who conform and become just another "somebody" who is pushed and pressured into acting a certain way for the approval of the masses.  How "dreary" and "public" to be one of these who are trying so hard to be liked and to be clones of everyone else living their lives in a fishbowl of judgement.  She compares this life to living in a box like a frog, forced to do someone else's bidding, or at the very least tell your name over and over to the admiring crowd..."bog"...which has such a negative, muddy, sticky connotation.  Almost as if the crowd were a swamp that one can't quite manage to get off one's shoes.

How much more wonderful to live life on the outside of all that...free of judgement and possibly "advertisement" if you live quietly enough.  Free to do what you want, express yourself the way you like, think and be who you ARE not what others expect you to be. 

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted January 28, 2010 at 10:36 PM (Answer #2)

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In the poem 'I'm Nobody - Who Are You' by Emily Dickinson, the poet explores the idea of 'persona.' This idea embodies the elements of identity, voice, control and status. For example, every human being is unique yet many are identified by outward cues - such as accent, education, political persuasions or religious affiliations. When one crowd sharing similar voices or 'croaks' gets too big, loud and voiciferous, the little guys get drowned out. They may feel they are 'nobodies' unless they meet another one too. Sometimes the future is hopeful - in the Race Riots enough 'little croakers' got together afterward to change public opinion and eventually, laws. Emily Dickinson appears to despise those who need to advertise their persona, views or worth all over the place without good cause.

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akannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 29, 2010 at 10:05 PM (Answer #3)

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As with so many of Dickinson's works, the theme of individual identity and alienation is expressed in a profound manner in this particular poem.  The fundamental idea of being different is expressed in a rather powerful manner in this poem.  The other theme which differentiates this poem from others like it is the idea of solidarity and community despite the perspective of being different from the social order.  This is where Dickinson's work achieves a great level of depth, for it does not merely express the theme of being free from the social order, but also delves into the idea of individuals who are marginalized can still develop solidarity with others and forming a social identity of what is deemed as "established" society.

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