Analysis of Much Madness is Divinest Sense by Emily Dickinson

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In 'Much Madness is divinest Sense' (435), a definition poem, Emily Dickinson criticizes society's inability to accept rebellion, arguing that the majority is the side that should in fact be considered 'mad.' The perception of madness and insanity are a common theme among Dickinson's poetry, as she fought against society's tainted view of herself as crazy. She focuses on how judgmental society is on non conformist views when she describes the majority as 'discerning' (line 2). As similar to most of her poetry, she writes in iambic meter and uses slant rhyme, as lines one, three, and seven end with 'Sense', 'Madness', 'dangerous', and lines six and eight, in 'sane' and 'Chain' in seemingly rhyme scheme. Dickinson credits the majority …show more content…
Although she was not literally insane, she was judged as so from society because she chose to bar herself socially for much of her adult life. Throughout the poem Dickinson exhibits anger both ambiguously, ?Much Madness is divinest Sense? (line 1) and blatantly, ?Demur?you?re straightway dangerous? (line 7), with a conflict of madness between the parties. The final line of the poem, ?And handled with a Chain?(line 8), is a direct reference to a psychiatric treatment performed late in the century, of a literal restraining of chaining patients who were considered mad and harmful to society.

Kattelman believed Emily Dickinson was an expert at combining clever word choices with concepts and images into a few short but very powerful lines of poetry (1). On the surface ?Much Madness is divinest Sense? communicates both irony and defiance as the speaker denies the idea of common sense while reaching for a greater truth. We initially learn and recognize the difference between sane and insane as recognized by the society at large. As we read deeper, we begin to understand her syntax, use of punctuation and meaning of her seemingly random capitalization (2). Dickinson is no longer simply observing madness against the norms of society but declaring her own convictions of it. Kattelman argues her capitalization of words, for example ?Madness?, ?Sense?, and ?All? is her way of objectifying them as people. Dickinson often personifies animals, inanimate objects, and…

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