This essay's object is to identify the influences factors that have shaped her style and writing.
In Beth Marlay Doriani's Dickinson: Daughter of Prophecy, she cites Christianity in the nineteenth century patriarchal context as one of the great influences on Dickinson's works. In Dickinson's poems, her treatment of Christian ideals and religion in general are often paradoxical and conflicting. Doriani states: "Dickinson's vision can be at times very orthodox, radically Christian, often ethical, yet, alternately secular, abandoning Christian dogma and principles" (26). This can be explained by an understanding of Dickinson's projection of herself as an "inspired religious visionary", one that is often at odds with tradition (Doriani 26).
It is also suggested that her treatment of traditional Christian ideals is a form of defiance of the cultural circumstances she's in and that "she drew on her religious surroundings to achieve liberation within her own cultural context, patriarchal as that culture was" (Doriani 2).
Also, nineteenth century preachers were believed to have a notable influence in the formation of the "literary character" of their listeners (Doriani 47), and an influential ecclesiastical writer and preacher, Jonathan Edwards, who is also a family friend, is said to be indicative of Dickinson's internal convictions (Howe 47-48).
The influence of preachers and the oratorical prose can be demonstrated by her constant use of dashes. Michael Meyer, in Thinking and Writing about Literature, furthers: "Since her use of dashes is sometimes puzzling, it helps to read her poems aloud to hear how carefully the words are arrange. What might seem intimidating on a silent page can surprise the reader with meaning when heard" (142).
Dickinson was an intensely private person. She never married and is seen by neighbors to be quite eccentric, having unusual habits like her insistence on wearing only white, an act that can be construed as an emphasis that "she had rejected marriage to dedicate herself to art" (Martin 129). Doriani also suggests that the Biblical concept of self-denial that was prevalent in the evangelicalism of her times could have an "influence on her own sense of self" (Doriani 153).
Also, the lack of household obligations played a part in establishing her as a writer. She shunned domestic duties and used her time and freedom to write poetry (Martin 5). Her "individualistic instincts and irreverent sensibilities" did not fit with the idea of domestic duty and social convention that was expected of women at that time (Meyer 138). Herein lies the crucial part her sister Lavinia Dickinson because this would "not have been possible without her sister's willingness to assume ho role of domestic caretaker" (Martin 95).
Dickinson was somewhat of a recluse and only confides exclusively with a number of people, rarely leaving her father's house in her last years. The most notable relationship is that with her best friend, Susan Gilbert, and Dickinson's letters to her clearly show great fondness and attachment for her. According to Martha Nell Smith in her essay, "Susan and Emily Dickinson: their lives in letters," evidence point to Dickinson showing Susan Gilbert poems and drafts, an act that seems to be exclusive to her. This gave Gilbert an immense influence on Dickinson, as attested by her giving "editorial suggestions (that)