Explain why it is “dreary—to be—Somebody!” in "I’m Nobody! Who Are You?" by Emily Dickinson.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Consistent with the theme of redefinition, Dickinson is able to redefine the individual's relationship with their social order.  In the second stanza, she refers to the idea of being "dreary" in being "Somebody" to bring out her own reveling in distinctive individuality.  I think that the capitalization helps to bring out how this "Somebody" is a figure or being of importance, something that society has deemed worthwhile.  In this, Dickinson makes the case that she is much happier being who she is and not trying to be somebody else.  Similar to much of her poetry, there is a resounding affirmation of the individual who constructs their identity away from the cloistered conformist definition of the modern setting.  It is here where Dickinson experiences a sense of the "dreary" in trying to be like others.  For her, there is a particular enjoyment in being separate from the social order.  Whether this relegation is self- chosen or dictated from others, it is something towards which there is a great deal of pride and happiness in being.  It is here where Dickinson ends up affirming and extolling the virtues of individuality, of being a "nobody," at the cost of being "Somebody."

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