Wild Nights—Wild Nights!

by Emily Dickinson

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Last Updated on September 5, 2023, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 345

The main character of Emily Dickinson's poem "Wild Nights—Wild Nights!" is the speaker of the poem. Though it is possible that the speaker of the poem is the poet herself, the identity of the speaker cannot be assumed as such; however, much of the speaker's experiences and emotions could very well have belonged to Emily Dickinson, so that possibility cannot be eliminated.

This brief poem focuses on a deeply emotional experience for the speaker that is ambiguously described. This experience involves a mysterious character that is unnamed but important to the speaker. She addresses this mysterious unnamed character directly twice with the word "thee" in both the first and the third stanza, and she employs the plural first-person possessive "our" in the first stanza as well. The experience the speaker and this unnamed character have shared clearly has made a significant impression on the speaker.

The speaker's response to the experience can be interpreted in different ways. Some scholars believe the speaker's raptures, as evidenced by the first line of the poem, which is also its title, and by the mention of words in the first and second stanza like "luxury" and "heart," are inspired by sexual joy, either real or imagined. If this interpretation is true, then the mysterious unnamed character could be a love interest of the speaker or an actual lover. Emily Dickinson led a rather quiet and reclusive life, but it is certainly possible that the object of the speaker's emotional outbursts is a human one.

Other scholars believe the speaker's exclamations to be religious or spiritual in nature, as the allusion to Eden in the third stanza might suggest. If this is the case, then the mysterious unnamed character could be God. As well, Emily Dickinson wrote a letter to her cousin in which she compared the act of dying to a "wild night" in the context of death and immortality. Emily Dickinson's spiritual life was a rich one, so it is possible that her speaker's raptures have more to do with a religious soulfulness than a romantic one.

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