Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

An Attempt to Make the Intent Known

Emily Dickinson’s poem “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” speaks of the universal idea of truth and the notion that truth should be revealed gradually. The language is vague, however, and deconstructs itself in many ways. Lack of punctuation, blurred line structures, and a focus on the logocentric idea of truth all create a confusion of meaning. The language is ambiguous and words work against one another. The multiple meanings of particular lines make any "absolute truth" impossible to find. By using the assumptions of transcendental signified, logcentrism, and binary oppositions, these deconstructive elements are easily recognized.

According to Deconstruction, the language in this poem undermines itself from the first line. The transcendental signified that is exposed in this poem is that of truth. Truth is portrayed as an idea that must be approached carefully and strategically. Because it is such an abstract term, however, multiple readings are possible. Truth may refer to an ultimate truth or simply honesty. If there is an ultimate truth, then it has the ability to serve as the center for all thought and reason. This idea, according to Derrida, although flawed, is impossible to completely avoid (Bressler,...

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