Poems of Emily Dickinson

Start Free Trial

What is the connection between Plato's Allegory of the Cave and Emily Dickinson's "Tell all the truth but tell it slant"?

Quick answer:

This essay compares and contrasts the works of Plato and Emily Dickinson. First, the author compares how both Plato and Dickinson attempt to show how one should present the truth to others. Then, the essay describes how both authors use metaphors to define their points of view.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” explains how people can easily disbelieve the truth when their experiences of the world do not align with the information presented to them. In the allegory, those who have lived their entire lives in the cave cannot comprehend that world outside because none of them have ever seen beyond it, and it overwhelms them entirely to hear that what they have believed for so long is not the only experience.

Likewise, the speaker in Dickinson’s “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” cautions against overwhelming one’s audience with too much of the truth at once, saying that doing so is too much for human beings to confront. Instead, the speaker suggests that one reveal the truth in pieces, as it is then much more likely to be accepted. In the final lines of the poem, Dickinson warns that failing to heed this warning can have catastrophic consequences when she says that “every man be blind.”

Like the cave dwellers in Plato’s allegory, the blind men in Dickinson’s poem close off the possibility of that which they have no frame of reference to understand. Without the scaffolding necessary to changing one’s point of view, one often rejects the mere possibility of an alternate perspective.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial