Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 13, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 231

Having been designated a Spring Festival honor book in 1965 by the New York Herald Tribune places Emily Dickinson in a prestigious category among other award-winning volumes. Longsworth’s carefully researched work deserves special recognition because, as a book for young adults, it radiates the freshness and vitality of its subject. The reader readily recognizes that the author is not simply reporting research but is introducing the essence that was Dickinson.

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Longsworth does not dwell morbidly upon a preoccupation with death; rather, she informs the reader that Emily continued to ponder and wonder throughout her life about the certainties and uncertainties of eternity. Losing those she loved certainly touched her poetry, but she went on breathing joy into her life and the lives of others. Her reclusive life-style was mysterious, but she reached out to others in ways that were unique.

As is traditional for books with a young adult audience, the reader is left with a feeling of hope. Longsworth has opened the door to the Dickinson homestead and given her companions enough of a glimpse of her subject to create an appetite for Dickinson’s poetry. Sensitive readers will identify with some questions that went unanswered and some mysteries that were unsolved but will also be challenged to bend life to their own terms, as did Dickinson, and above all to find joy in the gift that is uniquely personal.

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