Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

The Lasting Effects of Personal Trauma in “The First Day’s Night had come‒” College

Renowned as one of the creators of the American poetic voice, Emily Dickinson is famous for her unique poetic treatment of the dark subject matter of personal trauma. Although her poems are based on her own reactions to traumatic events, they are still relatable to a wide audience because she omits the actual description of the event, instead focusing on what comes afterwards. Her poetry explores how trauma permanently alters the human psyche. One specific example comes from “The First Day’s Night had come‒” in Fascicle 15, in which she discusses every mental state that the speaker goes through following a distressing incident.

In this poem, the speaker’s naive attitude towards pain turns progressively darker as she gains an understanding of the situation. Dickinson conveys this tonal shift through her references to time. This can be seen in the first stanza when she writes, “The first Day’s Night had come‒ / And grateful that a thing / so terrible ‒ had been endured ‒” (Dickinson 1-3), as the speaker seems to believe that the pain following the unnamed incident will end after just one night. The speaker does not realize that the effects of trauma can be long-lasting, and that there are aftershock-like repercussions that follow...

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