Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems Character List

The Beggar

In "Some -- Work for Immortality --," the beggar stands for the rare people who are able to see that it is better to work for fame or reward after death than money and immediate pleasure in life. The beggar is the broker’s antithesis.

The Broker

in “Some – Work for Immortality –,” the broker stands for the vast majority of people, who work to make money and for immediate pleasure in life, without thinking about what will come after death. The broker is the beggar’s antithesis.


In "Because I could not stop for Death --," Death is embodied as a rather kind gentleman, gently ushering the speaker to her immortality.

The Speaker

Almost all of Dickinson's poems have a first-person speaker, who is often closely paralleled to Dickinson herself. Although the speaker varies in tone, and sometimes philosophically, she usually seems to be a different manifestation of the same voice, seeing a familiar theme from a new perspective. The problem of identifying a first-person speaker with the poet is a common one, and making assumptions about the poet because of the speaker should not be done without trepidation.

In Dickinson’s poetry, however, there are certainly many hints that, if the speaker is not her, it is at least someone she closely identifies with. Some poems seem to serve as defenses of her choices—her seclusion from society, her devotion to poetry—and some seem to be in reaction to events in her life—her failure to be published, the loss of loved ones.

It would certainly be an oversimplification to read every speaker as Dickinson herself, and there are certainly poems in which the speaker is a character far from Dickinson. It could also, however, be reductive to try to read Dickinson’s poetry without reference to her biography, her letters, her stated beliefs. Though each speaker cannot be equated to Dickinson, Dickinson stands strongly behind all of them, and each seems to embody a part of her, if not the whole.