Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

Identity in the Romantic Era and Emily Dickinson's Poems College

Emily Dickinson once said: “We meet no stranger but ourself.” This quote relates strongly to the theme of identity within her poems. It can be taken to mean that it is easy for us to get to know others. To understand oneself, however, is a much more difficult task. As people, we are constantly evolving, so truly knowing ourselves is a never ending journey. Much of her body of work relates to searching for one’s own identity, as well as exploring what it means to be a woman in the Romantic Era. In this essay, I will be discussing Dickinson’s views on her personal identity, as well as the identity of women in general during the Romantic Era. I will be focussing mainly on “The Wife”, with supporting evidence from “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” and “The Soul selects her own Society”.

“The Wife” offers a strong critique of the lack of identity many women suffered during the Romantic Era. The lines “[s]he rose to his requirement, dropped / [t]he playthings of her life” is the harsh reality of what happened when women were married (Emily Dickinson, The Wife, verse 1, lines 1-2). The term “playthings” implies that anything a woman was involved in was not to be taken seriously (Emily Dickinson, The Wife, verse 1, line 2). It also expresses...

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