Emily Dickinson is was a talented and unique poet; some might even call her strange or mad. This poem, in a way, represents her life that was far from what was considered normal. In the 1800s, a certain type of behavior was expected from people, especially from women. Women cooked, cleaned, and nurtured their families, while under the control of men. It was not looked upon well when women strayed from this status quo. Emily Dickinson did, and this poem demonstrates this rebellion. This poem is short in length, like most of Emily Dickinson’s other poems.
It contains the use of perfect rhymes, imperfect rhymes, and end rhymes. An example of the perfect rhyme is between the words ‘sane’ and ‘chain. ‘ The imperfect rhyme was depicted with the words ‘madness’ and ‘sense. ‘ The rhyming is subtle and adds to the flow of the poem; it is not strict and structured. Emily Dickinson’s tone is also a large contributing factor to the flow of the poem. She conveys a tone of defiance, and in some cases, sarcasm. The sarcasm is present in lines six and seven, “Assent – and you are sane – Demur – you’re straightway dangerous. If one agrees with the majority than they are considered sane, but if one disagrees they are dangerous to this majority. The majority may be wrong, but if one just goes along with the status quo they will not be bothered. They might not be making the right decision to avoid making a difficult one and becoming “straightway dangerous. ” Another way Dickinson may be representing this sarcasm is through her capitalization of certain letters. She capitalizes the word majority and madness when they do not need to be; she is putting an emphasis or importance in these words to stress her point.
The brief eight lines in this poem seems short and simple at first glance, but once it is thoroughly read it is far from simple. A good amount of thought, intellect, and rebellion fill these eight lines (Victoriana Online). At first, this poem seems like a debate about sanity and insanity. The first line of the poem, “Much Madness is divinest Sense” sounds as though Dickinson believes it is okay to mad or insane. This does not sound like much of a surprise since she was a recluse for the latter of her life. Although, when looked at closer and consider the rest of the poem, it ecomes more clear that Dickinson is mocking society and the status quo; she is basically celebrating being different or unique. It is clear society comes into play when she writes the line, “to a discerning Eye. ” This discerning eye is society or the judgement that comes with societies. Such as, a woman not being married or having children by a certain age or not being of the proper religion. Emily Dickinson was different than other women of her time. She was unique and intelligent, and did not have a husband or children.
These factors may have contributed to her isolating herself later in her life. “There came a time in Emily Dickinson’s life, very near her thirtieth year, when she deliberately chose willingly to never leave her home again” (Dickinson 19). She became a recluse until the day that she died and wrote over 1800 poems. It is not said that she was insane and there is no doubt that she was intelligent, but maybe this “discerning Eye” and judgement in society drove her to this seemingly insane behavior. After Dickinson isolated herself from society it showed in her writings and poetry. Dickinson’s poetry reflects her loneliness and the speakers of her poems generally live in a state of want, but her poems are also marked by the intimate recollection of inspirational moments which are decidedly life-giving and suggest the possibility of happiness” (Poets Online). The last line of the poem pulls it all together and the theme of rebellion becomes more clear. The word chain is also capitalized to stress the importance of this theme. When one thinks of chains they think of slaves and no free will.
The life of a woman in the 1800s might not be the equivalent of a slave, but there was definitely a sense of limited free will. “Perhaps Dickinson was negatively referring to being “handled” or controlled by marriage, or worse, in an insane asylum” (Victoriana Online). This seems to be the central focus or message of this poem; escaping the chains of men, society, or anything else that restricts a person from being themselves. Emily Dickinson was a very important poet of the nineteenth century, even though she did not have any of her poems published under her name until after her death.
She did have some published anonymously and she put poems in letters to her friends after her isolation. Dickinson’s writing obviously did not stop at this though. “Upon her death, Dickinson’s family discovered 40 handbound volumes of nearly 1800 of her poems, or “fascicles” as they are sometimes called” (Poets Online). She wrote all of these poems for herself with seemingly no intent to get rich or famous off of them, but just to use her intelligence or express her emotions that could not be expressed during this time period. Much Madness is divinest Sense” is a very good representation of Emily Dickinson and her life; it was full of intelligence, creativity, and rebellion. Emily Dickinson did not assent with the majority, she demurred and created her own status quo.
“Emily Dickinson. ” Poets. org: From the Academy of American Poets. Copyright 1997-2012. Retrieved November 21, 2012. http://www. poets. org/poet. php/prmPID/155 Dickinson, Emily, Thomas Herbert Johnson, and Theodora Ward. The Letters of Emily Dickinson. Belknap Press, 1986. 19.