Themes and Meanings
Death is a frequent concern of Dickinson’s poetry. Often as a means to its exploration, she will seek its objectification through a persona who has already died. In other poems, she is quite sensitive to the fact of death and its impoverishment of those who remain. In some poems, she is resentful toward God, who robs people of those they love and is seemingly indifferent to such loss. One cannot explore the catalyst of life events behind Dickinson’s marked sensitivity with any certainty because she lived a remarkably private life. For her, death was only one more form of distancing. As she wrote in poem 749: “All but Death can be Adjusted.” Perhaps two of her most famous lines express it best: “Parting is all we know of heaven,/ And all we need of hell” (poem 1732).
Emily Dickinson was very familiar with death. Thirty-three of her acquaintances had died between February, 1851, and November, 1854, including her roommate at Holyoke College. Her mother’s family seemed predisposed to early deaths. Then the momentous death of her father occurred in 1874. In 1882, eight years after the death of her father, she wrote that “no verse in the Bible has frightened me so much from a Child as ‘from him that hath not,...
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