The Soul selects her own Society— Questions and Answers
by Emily Dickinson

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Dickinson's early editors changed the word "valves" to "lids" in line 11. How does it change what you see?

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There is an element of choice in the poem.  It is one in which the "soul" selects the path she wishes and the individuals, if any, with which to associate.  On one level, the use of the term "valves" indicates that this choice might change over time. A valve opens and shuts, constantly being able to reflect a sense of change in state of being.  A lid, on the other hand, is more static.  It is an entity that is shut and remains shut.  The difference between both terms might reflect the basic element of the choice that the soul makes.  On one hand, if the soul's attention is a "valve," it is more life- like, being able to open and shut, reflecting change and a fluid state of being.  The choices that the soul makes is one in which there is choice and there is a sense of dynamic freedom evident.  With the lid, there is a greater chance that the choices made by the soul's attention is more absolute.  It is more defined, almost as if that a choice made is a door closed to all else.  Dickinson's purpose of reflecting the level of choice of the soul's attention can be seen in different lights simply by the change in term of "valve" to "lid."

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