Kakos' 4th Hour

Reactions and comments from my fourth hour Honors American Literature class.

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My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Her Letter to the World


Please read the following poem by Emily Dickinson and respond to the questions below:

This is my letter to the world,
That never wrote to me,
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.

Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

What inferences could you make from this poem about Emily Dickinson as a poet and a person? Examine also her picture above and comment on her expression, clothing, and/or overall appearance. How does she strike you?

23 Comments:

Blogger JacobW said...

She’s a witch! Buuuurrrnnnnn Heerrrrr! That’s what first came to my mind when I saw the picture of Emily Dickinson. To the contrary, after reading the poem it seems that she is very much a transcendentalist herself because she brings up the topics of nature and societal judgment. The poem appears to be trying to transcend the world’s cynical outlook on nature and, obviously, she is trying to the tell the world that flying around on a broomstick or sitting up in a tree for three years should be excepted and supported. Her expression carries with it a tender appearance that has been molded and forced into a hurt, yet gentle façade, by “quiet desperation”. If I were to guess, I would say that she used poetry to not only express her ideas, but also to find escape and meaning.

12:34 PM  
Blogger AleF said...

I can even hear her tone of voice in this poem; gentle, quiet, and demure (to use a vocab word). However, the poem contains an order rather than a plea. She says that she is one of God's (or Nature's) creations and is therefore equal in stature to any one of her fellow humans. Her picture is the same way. She is dressed modestly, her hair is drawn back, and her hands are in her lap. Her eyes, however, stare in a way that is probing and almost frighteningly direct. They speak of days beyond her days and ideas beyond the world. She walks quietly yet carries a big stick or, in this case, a big pen.

2:28 PM  
Blogger collinm said...

Some inferences i could make is that she share some of the transcendentalist ideas in the way that she views nature, herself, people, and the way they all connect. She sees nature as "tender majesty" with love for everyone. She also sees the inner importance of nature and how it could relate to her inner values and beliefs. Her appearance is very modest with her arms resting in front. The thiness of her body makes her head look gigantic.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Caylab said...

I'd have to disagree with jacob. When i saw the picture of her I thought she was a silently strong person who observed the world through uncloudy glasses. I thought of her to be a simple woman with much to say about how we live. Her poem speaks, to me, of socital equality and fariness. I think she might be saying that under Nature we are all the same and so that is enough for pure equality.

5:17 PM  
Blogger SuzanneC said...

When I read the poem, I also thought of Emily Dickinson as a transcendentalist. I think she was describing her appreciation for nature and trying to persuade others to do the same and/or accept her view. The second I saw the picture, I thought she looked just like the mute girl in "The Others", which is a scary thing to have popping onto a computer screen. In the picture, Emily's posture makes her look sophisticated, but her expression makes her look insecure.

5:55 PM  
Blogger KaiaN said...

In the first two lines of Emily's poem, I think she says that she made an impact on the world, but it never came back around and benefitted her. Yet, she is drawn to some sort of higher being, reigning over nature and manipulating it into a beautiful landscape. In her picture, I immediately thought she looked very young and reserved. What is she holding in her hands? Haha, but she reminds me of "The Others" also Suzanne! That was so gross how they took pictures of dead people! Oh my gosh!!! I'm gonna have nightmares...

7:14 PM  
Blogger jacksonb said...

I agree with Suzanne. It seems like Emily Dickinson is trying to persuade others to love nature, rather than destroy it when she says, "For love of her, sweet country men". The poem also points out that Dickinson is a transcendentalist. In the picture, her body shows her refined and urbane, but her facial expression tells otherwise. Dickinson looks as if she would rather be somewhere else, like out in the woods away from the society that makes her pose for the portrait.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Caitlino said...

This picture really actually scared me. I do not like old pictures like this, and it is all too dark. She has a lightness to her eyes however, as if hinting that she knows something I do not. Her poem is rich and exciting, it seems so daring simply because she uses the word "her" when talking about nature, most poems of most time periods exclude a female presence. She hints at a transcendentalist view in her wording, just enough so the poem seems complete.

7:30 PM  
Blogger Robn said...

Emily Dickinson seems very vulnerable to me. Her attempt to transcend seems to be made of desperation, like she was bullied as a girl and now can find refuge only in nature. She views nature as a great equalizer, for all men must seem small and vulnerable compared to it, as she feels small and vulnerable compared to them. I think I'm missing one key part of the poem: I don't understand what "Her message is committed to hands I cannot see" means. Are the hands of other transcendentalist writers, that preach about nature? Or do they belong to everyone, to show the gifts that nature gave us? Why can't she see them?

7:53 PM  
Blogger Matt Coming said...

I agree with many others in that this piece of poetry strikes me much as many of the other transcendentalist pieces we have worked on previously. It displays the divinity of nature and the sensualism that we as humans should maintain when dealing with nature. Onto the topic of her attire it, as others have commented upon it is strikingly bland yet poetic in its simplicity. Clothing doesn't need to be so ravishing it is almost more beautiful to look at something so threadbare and vapid because you concentrate further on her facial expressions and posture rather than her clothing.

8:05 PM  
Blogger CaitlinZ said...

Emily Dickinson's poem expresses her desperation to be accepted. For a woman of her time, people probably criticized her for being independent and sharing her ideas. This poem illustrates her opinion that we are all Mother Nature's creations, and that it doesn't make any sense to judge each other. At first glance, the picture is quite disturbing- there is just something weird about it. But after studying the picture, I found that it has a Mona Lisa-ness to it. She has a bit of a half-smile and a determined gaze that makes her look like she is covering up an expression that she normally carries.

8:12 PM  
Blogger Ms. Kakos said...

I'm enjoying these comments; you're making creative and thoughtful connections. Does anyone want to respond to Rob's question about the meaning of the line, "Her message is committed to hands I cannot see"? I think the first step is to figure out whom the "her" is referencing. That sentence sounds so awkward, but I can't think of a better way to word it. Oh well.

8:18 PM  
Blogger Ms. Kakos said...

In addition, I'm sorry if this picture gives you nightmares tonight.

Sigh...

Poor Emily.

8:29 PM  
Blogger lindzd said...

She looks like she doesn't see much sunlight let alone much from her own front steps. I like this poem and most of her poems. Fairly normal yet very isolated, like her, yet so close to the world she could have been the shadow to anyone's blood and bone.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Raychel H said...

When I first saw Emily Dickinson I immediately noticed the smirky smile she had on her face (not to mention the fact that it looks like she only has one tooth...). From just a glance at the picture I saw her as, well basically exactly what Jacob, I hate to agree with him, but when I saw it, I too, immediately was reminded of the puritains. In response to Rob's question about that line in her poem, to me it resembles a depiction that she has of herself. By "her message" it is actuallty Emily's message, and "is commited to hands i cannot see" she means something along like, this message that she is putting out into the universe, is comitted to just that, being a message trying to get through to whoever. "hands I cannot see", hands you cannot see, hands we cannot see, basically it is just to whoever.

Sorry my response kinda bounced around...alot, so I hope you all can understand it...

8:43 PM  
Blogger KerryL1005 said...

I agree with alot of other people, i think poetry was her love and her way of expressing the feelings she felt toward society and the kind of person she was. Her picture is a little scary, I cant figure out the look in her eyes. She is distant, but looking at the artist/camera. She is dressed modestly and doesnt seem like she would be one that would have alot to say, but she does, and i think she enjoys expressing, like i said before, through her creative writing about nature.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Cayleigh B said...

I think that the "her" that emily is refering to, is nature, or mother earth.
Rob, i interpreted that "her message is committed to hands i cannot see", as nature sending out a message towards society. The message is perhaps something along the lines of what Emerson wrote in Nature and how nature can help to find yourself. But, the hands of society are invisible because society is so materialist and caught up in money, that people cannot see what Nature is handing to them.
As for the way Emily looks, the picture of her really creeped me out. Her white skin and dark eyes, and blank stare just don't look human. She is also very skinny, almost too skinny. Her face draws you into her, making you concentrate on her eyes, rather than whats around her.

8:47 PM  
Blogger nathank2 said...

First off I just have to say I think she resembles the girl from "The Ring" But I think Ale's word choice is very apt. Demure is the perfect word. She aeems shy from her peom but she also seems dispirited. Something must have gone wrong for her recently. I did not get a first impression of transcendentalist ideals in her poem. It almost seemed like a cry for help or a warning to others about the pain life can bring. I do not think that she has quite given up though. She is channeling her sorrow into a poem.

8:48 PM  
Blogger kerstinm3 said...

I think Emily Dickinson was a shy, timid person who didn't like showing her true emotion. She makes it appearent in her writing that her true feelings only come out on paper and not out of her mouth. In her picture she looks unhapy and like she has never seen the light of day. I wonder what was going on in her head at the time when the picture was taken?

8:50 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth B. said...

I think that her poem reflects who she is on the inside which is a stronger and more independent woman than what her picture shows. In the picture I was drawn towards her eyes, I felt like she was drawning me into her real personality. Her clothing reminded me of the Puritans or the Quakers, very plain and simple while her poem reflects a richer and warmer personality. I think that she tried to be accepted by other people, but they never did, so instead she accepted nature as her friend.

9:06 PM  
Blogger JeffN said...

I think that in Emily's picture, she looks very shy, timid, and stoic. The way she presents herself leads one to believe that she doesn't have very much to say and that she mostly keeps to herself. Yet we all know that this isn't true because of her writing. She says in the poem, "This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me...". I interpreted this quote as saying that she is now revealing herself to the world, because no one has ever done that for her. No one has ever acknowledged her as who she really is through her writing and she wishes that they had.

9:31 PM  
Blogger JeffN said...

PS- I really like Jacob's first line about her appearance. Mostly I liked it because that was exactly what I thought of. All the memories of The Crucible and witches rushing back! YAY!

9:34 PM  
Blogger Sarah B said...

I think Emily looks mature, depressed, and worn out. It seems as though she breaks her modesty by poetry. She doesn't seem like much of a talker yet her mind is always running. Without her escape of writing I think she would become mentally insane.

7:44 PM  

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