The Life of Emily Dickens

Emily Dickinson was raised in a traditional New

England home in the mid 1800's. Her father along with the

rest of the family had become Christians and she alone

decided to rebel against that and reject the Church. She

like many of her contemporaries had rejected the traditional

views in life and adopted the new transcendental outlook.

Massachusetts, the state where Emily was born and

raised in, before the transcendental period was the

epicenter of religious practice. Founded by the puritans,

the feeling of the avenging had never left the people.

After all of the "Great Awakenings" and religious revivals

the people of New England began to question the old ways.

What used to be the focal point of all lives was now under

speculation and often doubted. People began to search for

new meanings in life. People like Emerson and Thoreau

believed that answers lie in the individual. Emerson set

the tone for the era when he said, "Whoso would be a

[hu]man, must be a non-conformist." Emily Dickinson

believed and practiced this philosophy.

When she was young she was brought up by a stern and

austere father. In her childhood she was shy and already

different from the others. Like all the Dickinson children,

male or female, Emily was sent for formal education in

Amherst Academy. After attending Amherst Academy with

conscientious thinkers such as Helen Hunt Jackson, and after

reading many of Emerson's essays, she began to develop into

a free willed person. Many of her friends had converted to

Christianity, her family was also putting enormous

amount of pressure for her to convert. No longer the

submissive youngster she would not bend her will on such

issues as religion, literature and personal associations.

She maintained a correspondence with Rev. Charles

Wadsworth over a subeztial period of time. Even though

she rejected the Church as a entity she never did reject or

accept God. Wadsworth appealed to her because he had an

incredibly powerful mind and deep emotions. When he left

the East in 1861 Emily was scarred and expressed her deep

sorrow in three successive poems in the following years.

They were never romantically involved but their relationship

was apparently so profound that Emily's feelings for him she

sealed herself from the outside world.

Her life became filled with gloom and despair until

she met Judge Otis P. Lord late in her life. Realizing that

they were well into their lives they never were married.

When Lord passed away Emily's health condition which has

been hindered since childhood worsened.

In Emily's life the most important things to her

were love, religion, individuality and nature. When

discussing these themes she followed her lifestyle and broke

away from traditional forms of writing and wrote with an

intense energy and complexity never seen before and rarely

seen today. She was a rarity not only because of her poetry

but because she was one of the first female pioneers into

the field of poetry.

Emily often speaks of love in her poems, but she did

it in such a way that would make people not want to fall in

love. She writes of parting, separation and loss. This is

supported by the experiences she felt with Wadsworth and

Otis P. Lord.

Not with a club the heart is broken,

nor with a stone;

A whip so small you could not see it,

I've known

This seems to be an actual account of the emotions she

experienced during her relationship with Otis Lord.

Individuality played a pervasive role in her life as

a result of her bout with separation. Emily did not conform

to society. She did not believe it was society's place to

dictate to her how she should lead her life. Her poems

reflect this sense of rebellion and revolution against


From all the jails the boys and girls

Ecstatically leap,-

Beloved, only afternoon

That prison doesn't keep.

In this poem Emily shows her feelings towards formalized

schooling. Being a product of reputable college one would

think that she would be in favor of this. But as her

beliefs in transcendentalism grew so did her belief in


Emily also went against the Church which was an

extreme rarity of the time. Similar to many other that

shared her beliefs she too did not think that a set religion

was the way