illustrated portrait of English poet Emily Dickinson

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What is the speaker's attitude toward self and society in “There is a Solitude of Space” by Emily Dickinson?

In “There is a Solitude of Space” by Emily Dickinson, the speaker strongly advocates for the privacy of the self, which may stand in opposition to society’s demands. This type of solitude is not physical separation but the internal solitude that is the integrity of a person’s soul.

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In her poem “There is a Solitude of Space,” Emily Dickinson presents a speaker who deeply values privacy and juxtaposes this important quality to the requirements of society. Although the speaker itemizes types of physical isolation, their concern is the internal solitude associated with an individual’s soul. The speaker suggests that the individual may experience moral differences with society. What matters most, the speaker implies, is what a person holds most dear within their self—“[a] soul admitted to itself.”

The speaker acknowledges the importance of physical isolation, using repetition to list in the first three lines three different kinds of solitude: that of space, sea, and death. The introduction of mortality suggests the more metaphysical considerations that follow. The speaker then juxtaposes society, which implies public space, with its opposite, the more profound site that is “polar privacy.” Polar conveys isolation as it suggests both great distance and cold, which can be both an emotional and a physical sensation.

The internal qualities that a person values, or the soul holds inside itself, constitute a paradox: “Finite infinity.” This final phrase connects with the mention of the solitude of death in the third line. Thus the poem ends with the speaker suggesting the importance of the self because the soul outlasts the physical limits of life.

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