I would like an analysis of Emily Dickinson's poem "flowers- well-if anybody" with special attention to the use of the color purple.

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many of Emily Dickinson's poems include a reference to the color purple. A few of the poems are "There is a flower that bees prefer", "Wait Till the Majesty of Death", and "We like March", "It will be Summer--Eventually" and "Me, change! Me, alter!"

The use of the color purple is based upon the meaning of the color. The color purple is known to represent good judgement, spiritual fulfillment, and peace of mind.

In the poem "Flowers-Well-if anybody" (Poem 137) is a poem in which a woman is contemplating the power of a flower.

Flowers — Well — if anybody
Can the ecstasy define —
Half a transport — half a trouble —
With which flowers humble men:

Historically, and even today, flowers are used as a peace offering. One typically associates the giving of flowers to a woman, by a man, when the man has done something offensive. This notion is supported with the line "with which flowers humble men". Men use flowers to admit when they are wrong- a humbling experience.

As for the use of the color purple in the poem, the following lines are where the reference appear:

Butterflies from St. Domingo
Cruising round the purple line —
Have a system of aesthetics —
Far superior to mine.

The purple line is the line of purple flowers (showing the butterflies good judgement and peace of mind) which the butterflies fly over given their aesthetics (principles concerned with elements of nature and the appreciation of beauty). Dickinson admits that their appreciation of aesthetics are better than hers. This is simply saying that flowers do not "do it" for her when it comes to offering forgiveness.



mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Purple is mentioned repeatedly in the poems of Emily Dickinson; for, it is a dimensional color with its duality of red and blue, and it is spiritual.  For Emily Dickinson, purple holds a revered and sacred place in the natural world, suggesting a depth of meaning.

In Dickinson's later years, she spent a great deal of time at funerals, and, of course, purple is a funereal color, as well.  Thus, it is a color of great emotional significance whose meaning is clearly suggested in Dickinson's lines from her poem "Flowers-Well-if anybody--,"

Too much pathos in their faces
For a simple breast like mine --

Finally, for Dickinson in this poem it seems that Nature, in its pathos and "cruising round the purple line,"displays a depth of feeling and sympathy beyond that of the human spirit:

Butterflies from St. Domingo
Cruising round the purple line --
Have a system of aesthetics --
Far superior to mine.

Dickinson seems to feel that Nature in its purple lines can better express her emotional state than she or anyone else can: 

Flowers -- Well -- if anybody
Can the ecstasy define

Indeed, the imagery of purple is employed by Emily Dickinson to express the many natural and spiritual feelings that she experiences.

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