illustrated portrait of English poet Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson

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In the poem "Heart, We Will Forget Him," who is the speaker addressing?

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You can find a clue in the very first word of this poem, which addresses the speaker's "heart." Essentially, the speaker is talking to—and encouraging—herself. In her quest to forget the person who is the subject of the poem, she attempts to rally herself by addressing her heart—her feelings, her emotions, and her sentimental connection to this man—as if it were a separate being from her. In so doing, she creates a sense that there are two beings working as a team towards the same cause; she feels more supported by the idea that she is not alone in her quest.

The speaker seems to characterize herself as the thinking part of her being, while the heart is the part that feels. She tells the heart that she will endeavor to get rid of all "thoughts" of the man, while the heart must attempt to forget the "warmth" of him, a physical sensation.

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In this poem, the anonymous speaker is trying to get over or move on from a relationship that is characterised by unrequited love. Having loved someone, the speaker now finds that she must, however hard it may be, put that love behind her and move on in life, and forget her love for this man and the way that he made her feel. Thus, to try and help her to do this, she personifies her heart, trying to fashion some division between the will and the emotion and our reasonable, logical minds and our feeling hearts. Consider how the first stanza establishes this:

Heart! We will forget him!

You and I--tonight!

You may forget the warmth he gave--

I will forget the light!

Note how the heart it to forget the emotional warmth that this relationship brought the speaker, and the mind is to forget the way that the relationship changed the speaker's view of the world. Thus the speaker tries to divide herself up into two elements in an attempt to forget the man she can now no longer love.

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