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Belonging Prescribed text - Emily Dickinson Poems. Being • Becoming • Belonging Identity • Institution • Belonging Institution • Identity • Multiple institutions • identity • belonging . Words to remember – and to structure your responses…. Belonging Framework:

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belonging prescribed text emily dickinson poems

Prescribed text - Emily Dickinson Poems

words to remember and to structure your responses

Being • Becoming • Belonging

  • Identity • Institution • Belonging
  • Institution • Identity • Multiple institutions • identity • belonging

Words to remember – and to structure your responses…


Belonging Framework:

  • Being / identity barriers / relationships / places / “becoming” belonging/acceptance
  • One way of looking at the concept of belonging is to examine people's perceptions of:
      • What / who they are (being/ identity)
      • how they are changing (what they are becoming) and
      • the feelings of acceptance (belonging) that this may or may not generate.

What attitudes does the Poetry of Emily Dickinsonshow about a sense of belonging emerging from connections with:

  • People –
  • Places –
  • Groups –
  • Communities –
  • The larger world –

A narrow fellow in the grassOccasionally rides;You may have met him,--did you not,His notice sudden is.The grass divides as with a comb,A spotted shaft is seen;And then it closes at your feetAnd opens further on.He likes a boggy acre,A floor too cool for corn.Yet when a child, and barefoot,I more than once, at morn,Have passed, I thought, a whip-lashUnbraiding in the sun,--When, stooping to secure it,It wrinkled, and was gone.Several of nature's peopleI know, and they know me;I feel for them a transportOf cordiality;But never met this fellow,Attended or alone,Without a tighter breathing,And zero at the bone.


What are the perceptions about belonging in Poetry of Emily Dickinson - within thefollowing contexts:

  • The text (characters / society), the composer and… you!
  • Personal context – identity / being / individuality / appearance / hobbies
  • Cultural context – customs / leisure activities / work ethic
  • Historical context – time and place / political era / war:peace / pre:post colonial
  • Social context – rich:poor / educated:uneducated / social status / manners / language style / leisure activities / appearance
this i s my l etter t o t he world
This Is My Letter To The World

This is my letter to the world,That never wrote to me,-- The simple news that Nature told, With tender majesty. Her message is committed To hands I cannot see; For love of her, sweet countrymen,Judge tenderly of me!


Individual response to is Poetry of Emily Dickinsonprejudiced by the different ways viewpoints about belonging are:

    • given voice in a text OR
    • absent from a text
because i could not stop for death
Because I Could Not Stop For Death…

Because I could not stop for Death,He kindly stopped for me;The carriage held but just ourselvesAnd Immortality.We slowly drove, he knew no haste,And I had put awayMy labour, and my leisure too,For his civility.We passed the school where children played,Their lessons scarcely done;We passed the fields of gazing grain,We passed the setting sun.We paused before a house that seemedA swelling of the ground;The roof was scarcely visible,The cornice but a mound.Since then 'tis centuries; but eachFeels shorter than the dayI first surmised the horses' headsWere toward eternity.

i gave myself to him
I Gave Myself To Him…

Lexical chain of mercantile (business-like) language – creates an unemotional tone and aloof attitude to the institution of marriage. The persona likens the marriage contract to a business contract.

I gave myself to him,And took himself for pay.The solemn contract of a lifeWas ratified this wayThe value might disappoint,Myself a poorer proveThan this my purchaser suspect,The daily own of LoveDepreciates the sight;But, 'til the merchant buy,Still fabled, in the isles of spiceThe subtle cargoes lie.At least, 'tis mutual risk,Some found it mutual gain;Sweet debt of Life, each night to owe,Insolvent, every noon.

concepts of belonging in poetry emily dickinson

In the Dickinson poems set for study, the persona reflects on the individual’s ambivalent, and sometimes unwarranted, attitudes aboutbelonging.

  • I gave myself to him…
      • Although it reflects an ambivalent, and even precarious, attitude to belonging, the mercantile imagery in the poem develops a witty tone.
  • You might like to listen to a recording of the poem from the audiobook The Great Poets – Emily Dickinson read by Teresa Gallagher

Concepts of belonging in – Poetry, Emily Dickinson


The extracts from "The Piano” and the Dickinson poem, "I Gave Myself to Him" promote a sense of ambivalence towards perpetuating the female identity in the 19th century. Through the institution of marriage (simply by being of a particular age and culture) a woman belongs to not only a husband but to the powerful traditions and paradigms ingrained in society.

In Dickinson's poem, the interior monologue reveals the persona’s reflection on marriage. The mercantile lexical chain “depreciation” and “hidden cargoes” suggests a metaphorical analogy of marriage as a cold and emotionless business venture. The alliterative "myself a poorer prove” depicts the persona’s lack of power in the marriage which loudly echoes the lack of power that women possess in the patriarchal world in which they belong.

A sample response - which explores concepts about Belonging in Dickinson’s I gave myself to him and an extract from the film The Piano


In "The Piano", a similar attitude to marriage is presented by the wife. Again, the use of interior monologue introduces the private and candid thoughts of the protagonist, revealing insights into her ambivalent and almost deprecating attitude to her betrothal. This contrasts significantly to her seemingly cooperative and genial arrival in New Zealand, where the reader hears no interior monologue. Her piano is her “voice” which is juxtaposed with her muteness. This contrast mirrors the repressive atmosphere she enters as she becomes a wife and belongs to the patriarchal values and nature of marriage. Her muteness becomes an increasingly powerful metaphor for the paradigm of passive feminine submission in marriage. Her Piano clearly symbolises not only the protagonists true love… but also her sense of her true identity and strength. The interior monologue and symbolism and in both texts evoke powerful ideas about a woman belonging to a husband; from being an independent woman, to becoming a wife, then ultimately belonging to a husband and the traditions of marriage. As each persona reaches that place in which she “belongs” so too she becomes increasingly submissive, passive or "mute".