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Emily Dickinson's Before I Got My Eye Put Out

1214 words - 5 pages

In Emily Dickinson’s poem #336, the narrator feels a strong sense of despair and laments at having lost the physical ability to see in one eye. The narrator reflects upon the importance of sight in experiencing nature and finds a better appreciation for it now that she has lost her sight. By the end of the poem however, the narrator experiences transcendence, as she comes to the realization that through the act of imagination she is able to see far more than the limited view her eyes provided her with. Through the act of poetic writing, the narrator is able to capture the beauty of nature and engrave in into her soul. In Ralph Waldo Emerson’s excerpt from “Nature”, he alludes to the significance in sight when it comes to it being able to merge the human soul with nature to create perfect unity, and as such he lays the groundwork for Dickinson’s ideas that are presented within her poem. Though Dickinson’s poem may initially seem transcendental, it can also be interpreted as a mixture of Emerson’s transcendental ideas and those that support the notion of imagination. Dickinson’s poem serves as a response to Emerson’s ideas because she adds on to his thoughts and unites his idea that there is oneness present in the world with the notion that imagination and sight serve as a bridge that connects human consciousness with nature to create this oneness that Emerson believes in.
In the first stanza, the narrator says, that “I got my eye put out” (1), showing that she can now only see from one eye because of the singular use of eyes. Because she only talks of having lost sight in one eye, it can be assumed that she laments the limited vision that is now provided by her remaining eye. The narrator’s fragmented and limited vision caused by the loss of one eye is captured through the extensive use of dashes, which are used to separate the sentences making them give a feeling of disarray and disjointedness. The line that reads, “And know no other way” (4) suggests that even when she had both eyes the narrator had only known how to see nature but not appreciate it because she only knew of viewing nature in that one way. In capitalizing the word “creatures”, she shows that she holds them in high regards because they are able to see and be a part of nature in a way that she no longer can. When the narrator says, “I liked as well to see as other Creatures, that have eyes” (2-3), she compares herself when she was able to see with both eyes to the animals and sets herself apart from them because she notes that the way she once viewed nature is different from how animals perceive nature. Another way in which Dickinson shows that the way animals view nature and the way humans do is inherently different is by setting apart the “eyes” which they use to see. Dickinson uses the words “I” and “eye” interchangeably because though they sound the same, they are actually different words; this is similar to how though both animals and humans are able to see, the way both...

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