The Poems of Emily Dickinson Characters

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The Poems of Emily Dickinson Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinsonappears in Various Poems

Although she is also the author, Emily appears as a character in many of her own poems. Through these references to herself in her writing as well as the tone of her writing in general, readers of her work can get a good idea of what type of person she was. Emily was a very serious person, a loner, but also a person who considered deeply the effect of her actions on other people. It also seemed important to Emily that her life have some sort of meaning. One poem that shows Emily's desire for her life to mean something is Poem 982. In this poem Emily writes that if she can help just one person, she will consider her life a success. It is also obvious through Emily's writing that she spends much time in a garden observing nature. For this reason her poems are often full of references to flowers, animals and sunrises. Much of her imagery contains references related to nature.

Emily also appears to be very preoccupied with the idea of death. She has obviously been close to a person who has died and has observed this process carefully. In Poem 1108 Emily records the actions going on in a house nearby where someone has recently died. It is apparent from her poem that Emily has carefully watched the actions from a distance and knows well what the comings and goings mean. Although most of her poems are serious or even border on what might be considered morbid, it can also be seen that Emily had a sense of humor. For example, in Poem 260, Emily makes fun of the idea of popular.

Although Emily had few close friends and acquaintances it appears through her writing that she had at least one man for whom she felt great affection. Many poems, such as Poem 706, record a longing for a missing loved one. This love seems much deeper than that for a friend or a relative; it is portrayed as if Emily were in love with this person. She gives her audience a clue that this man might be involved in some sort of church work or ministry when she mentions that he, "served Heaven, you know, / Or sought to;". Emily, however, Emily never gives the name of her secret love.

Godappears in Various Poems

God is a character in many of Emily's poems. It appears she was torn concerning her idea of God and His role in the human's life. In Poem 1668 Emily portrays God as a character pleased with his creation. In Poem 546 Emily charts her changing beliefs in God. She recalls the blind belief of her childhood when she prayed because others told her to. As she began to have some opinion of her own, however, she stopped praying. At the conclusion of her poem Emily seems to be trying to find some balance between the belief in an all powerful God and the realities of the world.

In Poem 795 Emily refers to God as truth's twin. According to Emily both truth and God and God will exist forever. In Poem 803 Emily relates God to nature. Even though Emily claims she knows neither nature nor God, Emily feels they both know her well. In other poems God is portrayed as a judge, a creator and as one who takes away. Emily is particularly perturbed at God for taking away her loved ones as is seen in Poem 245.

Jesusappears in Poems 87, 377

Jesus is another character who appears often in Emily's writings. According to the Christian Bible, Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus was born on earth as a man, grew up and although He was sinless, He was crucified for the sins of the world. According to the Bible, this sacrifice allows all who believe in Him to have eternal life. In Poem 87 Emily writes about Jesus' statement that He chose the people of the earth to be His children even before they came to believe in Him. In Poem 377 Emily is searching for this person of Jesus in the storms of life. Although Emily searches everywhere and tries to find Jesus through prayer, she feels she is unable to connect with Him.

Jacobappears in Poem 145

Jacob is a Biblical character who allegedly wrested all night with an angel of God until the angel agreed to give Jacob a blessing. The only downfall was that the angel touched Jacob's leg during the contest and caused him to be lame the rest of his life.

Sueappears in Poem 5

Sue is a character in Poem 5 who is like a sister to Emily. According to the poem Sue lives next door to Emily. Although this sister did not wear her hand-me-down clothes as her blood sister did, Sue is just as close as this blood sister. Emily's friendship with Sue has made the years easier and life more beautiful.

Adam and Eveappears in Poem 1

In Poem 1 Emily writes about the couples of the world. One of these couples she includes is Adam and Eve. According to the Christian Bible Adam was the first man created by God. Adam lived alone in the Garden of Eden until God realized Adam was not happy alone. At this time God created Eve to be Adam's wife and friend. Eve was supposedly created by God using one of Adam's rib bones. Adam and Even were the first recorded earthly man and wife.

Pontius Pilateappears in Poem 404

Pontius Pilate is one of the governmental figures central in Jesus' crucifixion. He and King Herod planned together to have Jesus killed. However, Pilate's wife had a dream in which she was warned not to allow her husband to have anything to do with Jesus' death. Although Pilate tried to reason with the crowd gathered at Passover and convince them to allow Jesus to be freed, they insisted He be crucified. At this decision Pilate took water and symbolically washed his hands of the guilt of Jesus' death. This is why Emily states in her poem that Pilate sowed the seeds of the crucifixion of Jesus.

Peterappears in Poem 232

Peter was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, or close followers. Although Jesus had warned Peter he would deny he knew Jesus three times, Peter swore this would never happen. On the night before Jesus' crucifixion Peter did deny he knew Jesus three times just as Jesus had predicted. Jesus' only chastisement for Peter was to look at him, a look that wounded Peter to the heart.

Sirappears in Various Poems

Several of Emily's poems are addressed to an unidentified "sir" to whom Emily appears to have been in love with. One of these references is found in Poem 8 where Emily asks this sir to take care of her flowers after her death. Emily probably uses the idea of the flowers to represent some prized possession, perhaps her poetry. In Poem 108 Emily compares herself and this mysterious sir to the Alps and a daisy, though she doesn't come to a conclusion who is which. Poem 755 is a promise of everlasting devotion to this un-named man. Emily writes that her love will be as steadfast as the hills and long lasting as the sun.

My Masterappears in Poem 75

Poem 75, like a few of Emily's other poems makes reference to "my master." It is uncertain who Emily considers her master to be. This man may be one in the same of the "sir" of her other poems. However, the master may also refer to God, Jesus or Emily's father.

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