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Emily Dickinson's In A Library - Book Report/Review Example

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Emily Dickinson's In A Library

She went on to study at Mary Lyon's Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, but left less than a year later. She never traveled far from her home at Amherst, and was never married.
Despite not being given much to cultivating human society, she certainly valued her friends, Susan Gilbert being one of her constant friends, who later became her sister-in-law. She maintained long correspondences with valued friends such as Thomas Wentworth Higginson who was possibly also her sole critic, and maybe even one of her romantic attachments. She wrote prolifically till her death in 1886. She died at the age of 56 of Bright's disease, and was buried in white at Amherst, in keeping with her rigorously white attire through most of her later life.
One of the strongest aspects of Dickinson's poetry is its capacity for layered meanings, and "In a Library" is no exception. For Dickinson, a written word was open to many interpretations, and the reader was very much a part of the poetic process: "A word is dead, when it is said /Some say - /I say it just begins to live/ That day"(L 374; P 1212). She accepted that her words could, and often did take different and often unintended meanings in a reader's mind. On the surface, "In a Library" is a poem about delving into the past with a book, to take pleasure in a flight of fancy by witnessing history as recorded on its pages, by taking part in myth, by understanding the perspectives and opinions that informed scholastic work during a time long gone past.

On another level, the poem can also be seen as an association with a dear old fatherly acquaintance, here personified in a book. The experience of reading a really old book, its aged textures and its nostalgic fragrance is almost like meeting up with an elderly, knowledgeable father figure, and Dickinson plays on this dual meaning to describe an experience all bibliophiles are familiar with. The "mouldering pleasure" and the time-travel associated with it can only be derived from an old book, never a newly printed page.

To create this kind of harmonic dual meaning, Dickinson extensively uses figurative language. The very first line begins with a synecdoche: "mouldering pleasure," it is the book that is actually mouldering, not the pleasure. Dickinson also uses personification for the "antique book" which appears in "just the dress his century wore." While describing the throwback into history and myth, Dickinson takes recourse to literary allusion: "And Beatrice wore/ The gown that Dante deified". In the lines, "He traverses familiar,/As one should come to town", Dickinson gives us a simile between the book and a new traveler in town from faraway lands who knows truths that we imagine to be dreams. And in a final, "tantalising" vision, Dickinson gives us the personification where, "Old volumes shake their vellum heads."

Throughout, Dickinson loosely applies the hymn rhyme scheme with the common meter containing quatrains in an 8/6/8/6 pattern. Here, the first line of the quatrain has eight syllables followed by a line of six syllables, and the next two lines of the quatrain again contain eight and six syllables respectively. Dickinson was never overly concerned with following proper rhyme schemes, giving more importance to the insight behind her poems, and that is evident in the somewhat imprecise application of rhyme ...Show more


Considered one of the definitive American poets, Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 - May 15, 1886) was a reclusive personality and a largely unpublished poet during her lifetime. Her well-deserved fame is posthumous, and is representative of her strong voice which continues to beckon us across the the gap of more than a century and through the variety of rigorous edits most of her works have gone through.
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Emily Dickinsons In A Library essay example
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