Identify some poetic devices in Emily Dickinson's poem "I'm nobody! Who are you?"

Expert Answers
booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily Dickinson's poem, "I'm Nobody! Who Are You?" is one of hundreds she wrote, not published until after she died in the late nineteenth century.

Instead of traditional rhyme schemes and punctuation, Dickinson used broken meter, seemingly random capitalization, and numerous dashes to convey complex thoughts and emotions.

This poem does not have rhyme schemes that are usually found in four-line stanzas or poetry, in general, of that time. Instead of an ABAB or ABCB rhyme scheme, Dickinson used AABC. The rhyme scheme is charted at the end of each line. In the first stanza, the rhyme starts with "you" and "too" rhyme (represented by A), but a new sound is introduced with "us" (represented by B), and another sound is introduced with "know" (represented by C).

Assonance is the repetition of a similar sound among a group of words. For example, "The rain in Spain lies mainly one the plain" is an example of using the "long" A sound. In the following line, the "oo" sound in "you" is the same as that in "too."

Are you – Nobody – too?

In the next line, the short E sound is the same in "there's" and "pair."

The rhyme scheme changes again with the second stanza. The rhyme scheme is ABCB (a more traditional rhyming pattern). Assonance takes place with "dreary," "be" and "somebody," repeated the long E sound. The end of the second and fourth line, "Frog" and "Bog," also rhyme.

A simile (a comparison of two dissimilar things as if they are the same) is used in comparing how being somebody is a public circumstance, like being a frog is public. The two may be exposed to the public eye, but a person is not like a frog.

How dreary – to be – Somebody!

How public – like a Frog – 

Lastly, personification is used in the last line. Personification is giving human characteristics to non-human things.

To an admiring Bog!

A bog is...

...wet, spongy ground with soil composed mainly of decayed vegetable matter.

A bog cannot be admiring because it does not have emotions; it is not a person.

Literary devices make images presented in poetry more realistic. These images, however, are figurative—not to literal.


droxonian eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This poem follows the structure of many of Dickenson's others in that it utilizes the long dash to create anticipation and interest throughout. In describing herself as "Nobody" with a capital N, the poet paradoxically turns Nobody into a proper noun, therefore suggesting that Nobody is indeed Somebody. Likewise the Frog (obviously referenced here in a simile) and Bog are personified, with the Bog ascribed the human characteristic of admiration while the Frog "tells its name" as if it were human. 

The conspiratorial tone of the poem, with its direct address to the reader—"Don't tell"—has the effect of involving the reader in the feelings of the poet. The two are united in the sense that it would be "dreary to be Somebody" even as the author slyly indicates that we are all Somebody. 

Read the study guide:
I'm Nobody! Who Are You?

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question