It Feels a Shame to Be Alive (Dickinson) - Analysis Essay

856 Words Oct 31st, 2012 4 Pages
Discuss the poem It Feels a Shame to be Alive, by Emily Dickonson in conjuction with Jay Parini's statement “poetry gives voice to what is not usually said”

The American Civil War was one of the most violent eras of American history. It was during this period that the poems written by Emily Dickinson carry the most meaning. Jay Parini said, “poetry gives voice to what is not usually said”, It feels a shame to be alive, by Emily Dickinson is about death and it questions the bravery of the living. Despite death being a part of day-to-day life during a time of war, death was an unknown state of being and for this reason it scared people and the topic was avoided, as it still is today. This poem questions the bravery of those who live “When
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Rather, citizens possess soldiers more as a commodity to be spent for “Liberty”. In this case, the “Whom” in the first line represents non-fighting citizens and the “possessed” in the third shows how these citizens viewed the soldiers.

The third stanza of this poem asks the reader whether the society of the time really deserved such a great price paid for their freedom. “-a Thing- / that lives - like dollars – must be piled.” With these two lines, readers see the visual image of bodies piling up and understand the relationship between the price that supposedly must be paid for “a Thing” or freedom. Life seems to be something that can be expended just as people count and stack money when paying for a purchase without truly realizing its worth. Comparing life to dollars poses the question of whether all lives are of equal worth, or if some lives are worth more than others.

In the fourth stanza, Dickinson asks whether the lives of those who survive worth all the lives sacrificed in battle, similar to her message in the third stanza. Are our lives, “we that wait”, worthy of something so beautiful as someone’s life, the “Enormous Pearl” being destroyed in something so brutal as battle. The line “In Battle’s – horrid bowl” gives the image of a brutal and bloody turmoil that, like the curved edges of a bowl, is inescapable.

The spelling of “reknown” is the only time Emily uses this