Examine how "This is My Letter to the World" challenges and supports the idea that true belonging comes from shared values.

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

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Dickinson's poem about an artistic statement to the world is packed with complexity and intricacy.  Different vantage points from the same poem can be generated.  One such divergence can be seen in how the poem addresses that true belonging comes from shared values.  Dickinson as the speaker is quite open about how she is going to be sharing her work with the world.  From the opening of the poem, it becomes clear that the speaker, presumably Dickinson, is going to share her "letter to the world."  Even if the world "never wrote" to her, she is still going to share her voice with the world.  This voice is reflective of "simple news that Nature told," and she has no worry about the act of communion that will take place.  This opening suggests that values might not be shared, but there can be a sense of belonging established.  The opening of the poem does not suggest that what is shared is going to be convergent with values shared and accepted.  Rather, the act of sharing is something that can exist outside of shared and parallel values.  This helps to support the idea that true belonging does not have to comes from shared values.

However, within this light, the close of the poem can offer some evidence to support the idea that belonging must come from shared values.  Consider the ending of the poem as an example of this.  The "hands" that cannot be seen are emphasized in the closing plea of the poem to be judged tenderly.  Dickinson would not make this request of those she cannot see unless she understood that social judgments can result in the most brutal of manners. Dickinson makes this plea because she is aware that those who hold values which are not shared by external world can be treated in a harsh manner.  It is for this reason that she pointedly asks to be judged "tenderly."  This request comes from a position in which she understands that individuals are not necessarily judged in the most open of manners should their views collide with the dominant majority.  It is in this where the poem might suggest that true belonging does come from shared values.

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