Where can the use of metaphor,metonymy and imagery be   referenced in Emily Dickinson "I'm Nobody! Who are You?"

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

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The simplicity of Dickinson's poem takes away from its complexity.  Harold Bloom suggests that a part of the poem's strength is that it articulates “a universal feeling of being on the outside."  This can be seen in some of the imagery that is employed.  Images of loneliness and solidarity in the form of collectivity can be seen in "Then there's a pair of us!/ Dont tell! they'd advertise - you know!"  The image of the "us against the world" mentality helps to illuminate how Dickinson revels in being on the outside looking in.  For Dickinson, there is a particular strength in being on the periphery of a conformist social order.  This is enhanced through the imagery of people who are marginalized finding one another and reveling in their condition of being on "an island" together as refuge from conformist notions of the good.

An argument can be made that this helps to bring out the metonymy within the poem.  Dickinson uses the idea of a "bog" as representing a real where creativity and uniqueness dies.  The use of the bog is shown to represent a domain of collective conformity that Dickinson feels must be avoided at all costs.  One can assert that Dickinson's use of the bog embodies metonymy because it seeks to associate popularity and social acceptance with something called by another name.  The bog represents "a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing or concept."  In the poem's case, social acceptance is akin to a bog where lifelessness and a sense of the uninspiring is evident.

The metaphor of frogs helps to enhance this metonymical example.  The frog's constant croak is one that tells everyone its presence. However, there is nothing distinctive and unique in it.  Dickinson suggests that those who live amongst the frog, amongst the public chatter, live in an "admiring bog."  It is an metaphor that enhances the "us against the world" mentality that underscores the poem.  This helps to pose a condition of challenge towards authority, suggesting that what is seen as accepted and conventional might not be accurate and an effective way to live.  This metaphor is effective in illuminating the poem's meaning and resonant effect upon the reader.  To be "nobody" is preferable to being "somebody" who must live in the bog of banality enhanced through social acceptance and conventional conformity.

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