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Poetry Explication Essay: Hope is The Thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson

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The poem I chose to explicate is Hope is the Thing With Feathers. It was written by Emily Dickinson in 1861, and it was published in Poems by Emily Dickinson 2nd Series in 1891. The whole poem is a metaphor for hope, using a bird as the comparison. It begins by comparing it to a “thing with feathers” or a bird that never ends or stops. It then goes on to say that it is the “sweetest when the gale is heard” or that hope is the sweetest when you are in a difficult place in your life. Then it says that the storm in your life must be extreme to stop hope and that hope is the thing that keeps you warm in the storm. In the last stanza, she says that no matter where we are or how extreme the situation is that it never asks for anything in return.

Since her entire poem is a metaphor she uses quite a bit of symbolism. The bird obviously is the symbol for hope and the “tune it sings without words that never stops at all” symbolizes that hope isn’t in words but in feeling and it continues infinitely. In the next stanza, the gale and storm symbolize the difficult times that we experience in our lives and the one thing we want in a storm is to be warm. Finally, in the last stanza she talks about the “chillest land” and the “strangest sea”, which is alliteration, these are places that no one would want to stay at they are also the hard times in our lives and these are the places that she had heard the singing of hope.

As in most of her poems, Emily Dickinson does not give a speaker in Hope is the Thing With Feathers nor does it have a specific audience. She rarely puts a specific speaker into her poems such as this one because typically the speaker isn’t the important thing but the message and subject of the poem. During her life, though she wrote many poems she didn’t have many of them published and typically kept them to herself or her family and close friends. Although she did send in about one hundred poems to the Atlantic Monthly, only a few were published anonymously and prior to her consent. The purpose of her poem is to describe hope. She does this using the metaphor of a bird. The poem helps us to understand hope more deeply than we did before.

Although it may look simple at first the more you analyze the form and meter of her poem the more complex it becomes. It is a ballad, which is a poem narrating a story in short stanzas, and is technically written in slant rhyme because the words that rhyme only partially sound alike. The rhyme scheme is loosely ABCB. However, the last stanza is technically in ABBB and there are a couple accidental carryover rhymes such as heard and bird in the second stanza. The meter is a mix between iambic trimeter and tetrameter. It has iambic feet because the lines have an unstressed then a stressed syllable. Such as the first line looks like this. The / showing unstressed syllables and the | showing stressed syllables. /|/|/| In some verses it is in trimeter meaning it has three iambic feet per line, so three / | / | / | and in some, it is in tetrameter which has four iambic feet per line. Even though her form and meter may seem as simple as slant rhyme with iambic trimeter once you look closer it becomes quite complicated.

Emily Dickinson wrote this in hopes that we might have a fuller understanding of how hope works after reading it and she succeeded. Her poem takes the concept of hope and the simple bird and gives us a beautiful poem about the amazing things hope accomplishes for us.

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Poetry Explication Essay: Hope Is The Thing With Feathers By Emily Dickinson. (2020, October 10). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 8, 2022, from
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