Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

Faith and Doubt in Emily Dickinson's Poetry

Emily Dickinson's poetry covers a broad range of topics, including poetic vision, love, nature, prayer, death, God, Christ, and immortality. There is a unity in her poetry, however, in that it focuses primarily on religion. Full of contradictions and varying moods and perspectives, her poems offer a glimpse into a complex and intelligent mind that struggled for a lifetime with religious belief. Clearly, she resisted conforming to the expectations of her church and school that she publicly identify with the community of believers and accept their traditional doctrines without question. She chose to define her own beliefs rather than accept the "limitations" of a structured religion's mold: an issue that she struggled with until her death. This struggle is characterized in her poetry by a constant questioning of God's goodness, an identification with the sufferings of Christ, and, ultimately, by the lack of a connection between a suffering Christ and a loving God, and between a triumphant Christ and hope for humanity.

Although Dickinson's struggle was deeply internal, external influences played a significant role, particularly in the realms of science, philosophy, religion, and literature. The traditional...

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