Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

I’m a Spider, Who are You?: Animal Imagery in Dickinson's Poems 12th Grade

Emily Dickinson has become notorious for her ability to elicit many different but strong emotions in a single poem. Out of all of her animal poetry, one of her most famous symbols might be that of the spider. Critics generally agree that arachnids in Emily Dickinson’s poetry serve to represent herself as an artist. However, in classic Dickinson fashion, the spider symbol becomes more multifaceted upon a closer reading than one might assume it to be at first glance. In Dickinson’s poems mentioning spiders, the arachnids represent not only herself as an artist, but also the idea that production is fragile. One can mend, create, edit, or worship something, but the thing itself can still be ultimately destroyed. Dickinson’s spider poetry represents the artist’s concern for their art’s mortality, and thus, in a way, their own.

While Emily Dickinson’s themes of destruction and disillusionment might not seem uplifting, some critics claim that they represent a greater American discontent that the public almost viscerally felt at the time Dickinson was writing. For instance, of the image of the spider’s function in American literature as a whole (but primarily in terms of Whitman and Dickinson), Vincent Dussol writes that, “this nation’...

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