Hope Is The Thing With Feathers Analysis

Analysis of the poem Hope Is a Thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson?

That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.



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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Dickinson is using metaphor of a small bird to carry her point that hope stays alive within us despite all of our troubles and, like a small bird that sings in the face of the strongest wind and most powerful storm, hope never asks for anything from us--it is just there to help us when we need it.

In the first stanza, Dickinson says that hope, like the bird singing a tune, doesn't necessarily speak to us in any conventional sense but is always present in us.  Most important from Dickinson's point of view is that hope "springs eternal" (a cliche, but true nonetheless), that is, hope is a permanent fixture of our being that allows us to conquer most of what life throws at us.

The second stanza deals with the power of hope:the more the wind howlsl and the storm rages, the sweeter is the bird's song.  The poet has a hard time imagining a storm so strong that it could overcome the power of the bird's song, so Dickinson would argue that hope, which has kept so many people from despair,  can overcome any suffering.

When Dickinson says in the third stanza that the little bird, despite having to endure "the chillest land" and "strangest sea," has never asked for any payment, Dickinson is simply reminding us of hope's inherent power--it is always there, requires no maintenance, and is strong enough to see us through our troubles.

The metaphorical use of natural elements--in this case, the small bird--is a hallmark of Dickinson's poetic technique.  Often, when Dickinson deals with relatively abstract concepts like hope, love, and death, she uses a concrete image from nature to make more real something that is difficult to "see."


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