Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

I Could Not Wait for Death: Suicidal Undertones in Dickinson College

“A Death blow is a Life blow to some” says Emily Dickinson in poem 816 (Dickinson 816). Emily Dickinson did not commit suicide-- she died of her numerous medical conditions at the age of 55 in 1886. Her personal life was famously enigmatic, as she spent the later years of her life secluded in her room, having little to no contact with the outside world. This kind of estrangement, coupled with the preoccupation with death evidenced in her poetry and her medical conditions evidenced in her personal correspondence, leads one to believe there may have been something of a suicidal undercurrent in Dickinson's work.

In a study published in 2001, in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine, an experiment was performed to determine if specific words in poetry could be indicators of a suicidal inclination. The following is an excerpt from the article: Suicide rates are much higher among poets than among authors of other literary forms as well as the general population (1). This phenomenon has variously been attributed to the types of writers who are naturally drawn to poetry as well as to the features of poetry itself. For example, there is retrospective evidence to suggest that many suicidal poets have suffered from some form of depressive...

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