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

Start Your Free Trial

How does the poem "The Soul selects her own Society—" reflect being selective in the most positive sense of the word? Include quotations.

Expert Answers info

D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2016

write11,495 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

In this poem, the speaker expresses how her reclusive—or selective—nature is a source of empowerment. She chooses who she sees or doesn't see.

She associates or compares this power to select her company as being like a monarch who can let in or keep out whoever she pleases: Her soul is strong and "shuts the Door" to those she does wish to have enter. She speaks of her soul, too, as turning away "Unmoved—an Emperor ... kneeling / Upon her Mat—"

If her soul can turn away a person as important as an emperor, as the poem states she can, its selectivity gives her great power and agency. She is fully in charge of who gets access to her inner thoughts and being.

Comparing her soul's ability to shut people out to becoming a "Stone" in the third stanza reinforces the idea that her soul's selectivity is intentional: it is surrounded by a stone fortress that nobody can storm. However, she can let in the few people who she likes. Sometimes it is simply one person, and then she closes the "Valves of her attention."

Often, we can perceive the person who chooses solitude or who cuts oneself off from others as pathetic or powerless, but in this poem, Dickinson turns that idea around and depicts her speaker's solitude as a way to protect her soul.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial