In We Dickinsons, Fisher and Rabe use several approaches to re-create the life of Emily Dickinson so that contemporary readers can know the poet as a person and can understand the social context of her life and thought. At times they create purely fictional dramatic scenes and dialogues to express themes that apparently occupied the poet’s mind. Whenever possible, however, the authors use the poet’s own words, taken from letters and poems, and these words give depth to the fictional segments of the biography. For example, the theme of Dickinson’s dislike of change in her environment is established at the beginning of the fictional autobiography as the family prepares to move from the home built by their grandfather to another one. When the young Emily disappears on the day of moving, the reader senses her strong love of familiar places.
The biographers also try to express the many domestic responsibilities of women in the nineteenth century that may be unfamiliar to young people today. One drain on the creative life of Dickinson was the amount of time required to take care of such household duties. Lack of modern appliances meant that women spent long hours every day cleaning and baking in order to maintain a large home such as the Dickinsons’. This housekeeping left Emily with only the late hours of night for her reading, reflection, and writing.
The narrator’s twofold vantage point (as both brother and outsider) creates a distinct shift in tone halfway through the biography. As the early days of childhood play, excursions, and churchgoing end with departures for school and, for Austin,...
(The entire section is 669 words.)