Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Dickinson’s thematic approach in “Title divine—is mine!” is as ironic as it is paradoxical. In appearance, the wedding day is the biggest celebration in the narrator’s life. It brings her recognition and titles. It represents a “Tri Victory” connecting the past and the future. However, the narrator gradually realizes that she is a person who has been acted upon rather than one who has acted, a person who has been forced into the role of a passive receiver rather than an active participant. The emotional conflict the narrator reveals in the second half of the poem is, in fact, embedded in the very beginning of the poem: She is given a title by someone who apparently is more powerful than “divine,” she is given the sign “Wife” with or without her consent, and she is conferred the “Acute Degree” that makes her the “Empress of Calvary.” If the narrator’s reading of history is accurate, the end is, indeed, in the beginning.

Thematically, “Title divine—is mine!” is firmly anchored in and representative of a large group of Dickinson’s poems that protest against society’s discriminatory treatment of women and condemn a system in which people are treated not as individuals but as types. In “They shut me up in Prose,” Dickinson portrays a female teenager who, because of her gender, is questioned about her natural poetic talent. In “My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun,” the narrator complains about a metaphoric marriage...

(The entire section is 482 words.)