In Emily Dickinson's poem "The saddest noise, the sweetest noise," how does that refrain support the idea that contact and connections with other people is integral to a person's sense of belonging?

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kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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It is difficult to advance the argument that Emily Dickinson's poem "The Saddest Noise, the Sweetest Noise," constitutes a clarion call for human connections and personal fulfillment.  A reclusive figure the overwhelming bulk of whose poetry was not discovered until after her death, Dickinson was a solemn and reflective individual whose character was, sadly, shaped as much by the deaths of those to whom she was closest -- including a cousin to whom she was very close, a family friend who mentored the young girl, and the respected principal of the academy she attended, combined with the frailty of her mother throughout her life -- as by genetics, education or character.  The Dickinson family, of course, resided and was well-established in Massachusetts, a region of the country with very definite seasonal transformations.  The change of seasons to those who grow up in regions where the cold, grey winters and seemingly endless snow and ice dominant the landscape for many long months of the year and only gradually give way to the warmth and brightness of Spring can leave an indelible mark on one's character.  For an individual like Dickinson, the bleakness of winter, compounded by the sickness and death that permeated her existence, could only have a depressing effect on her outlook.  Such was the case with "The Saddest Noise, the Sweetest Noise."  Close relationships, to Dickinson, were invariably characterized by premature death from typhus, tuberculosis, brain hemorrhage, and whatever other ailment inflicted those to whom she was closest.

In "The Saddest Noise," Dickinson suggests that the arrival of Spring is not the beginning of rejuvenation to which it is traditionally associated, but rather the beginning of another period of dread.  The following stanzas, referring to nature's transformation from a season of bleakness to one of light as exemplified in the return of the birds, can be considered illustrative of such sentiments:

"It makes us think of all the dead

That sauntered with us here,

By separation's sorcery

Made cruelly more dear.

It makes us think of what we had,

And what we now deplore.  

We almost wish those siren throats

Would go and sing no more."

Dickinson's adulthood, as noted, was marked by her reclusiveness, quite possibly a direct result of the premature deaths of so many to whom she was close.  It is possible that this particular poem can be interpreted as a suggestion that the personal connections are integral to one's sense of belonging.  To one versed in Dickinson's life and works, however ("Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me . . ."?), it is inconceivable that "The Saddest Noise" is more about belonging than about the bleakness of existence.

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