illustrated portrait of English poet Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

Start Free Trial

How does "While We Were Fearing It, It Came" reflect Dickinson's poetic style?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Dickinson's poem "While I was fearing it, it came" uses the conventional ballad or common measure we expect to find in her poetry. This is the alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, with the rhyme scheme of abcb. This form suggests a familiar and comfortable pattern of sound and rhythm within which Dickinson works, usually to create some element of discomfort.

In this poem, the use of the pronoun "it" creates the discomfort. What precisely is the thing to be feared? We might imagine she means death, mental illness, or something else. Because it remains unknown, the shape of it cannot be constructed in the reader's imagination, leaving one to perhaps dread whatever one fears on one's own, to project one's own fear onto the poem. "It" then becomes a thing inside oneself, rather just an object within the poem.

Dickinson's ability to give profound psychological nuance to a human condition without seemingly working very hard to do so is one aspect of her brilliance. Whatever "it" might mean in this poem, it too seems to come upon the reader with the subtlety described within the work.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This poem concerns the way that a long anticipated fear is actually made less fearsome because of the way that we have been waiting for it for so long and this has almost made it "fair" instead of a "fear." What is key in Dickinson's style is the way that she uses simple words to convey complex ideas and feelings, and we can see this stylistic element very definitely in this poem. Note for example the way that this poem ends with a metaphor to help cement her point:

The Trying on the Utmost
The Morning it is new
Is Terribler than wearing it
A whole existence through.

Dickinson uses a metaphor of wearing clothes that is clearly one that every reader can relate to in order to present the difference between a sudden fear that must be "tried on" that very day and then "wearing" a fear for all of your life. Dickinson, through employing such images that relate to every day existence, clearly presents us with an image of fear that helps to demystify it and almost presents it as a friend.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial