Civil rights leader and activist Martin Luther King Jr speaks in his letter from Birmingham Jail, that we must, “carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountains of disappointment.” However, what is hope really? Emily Dickinson speaks about hope in her poem, ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ and compares hope to a bird.
Other poets have compared hope to birds, but Dickinson puts a touch on it that only could work for her by calling it “the thing with feathers.”
Dickinson has a knack for comparing intangible things and turning them into the tangible. She loves to compare them to nature imagery and uses things that we see every day like birds, plants, grass, or the sun and makes us question them and what they really mean.
Dickinson similar to Martin Luther King believes that hope is something that must be valued, and throughout the poem we see her talking about how hope is almost untouchable.
Yet, the key word to that is almost. We see Dickinson allude in her poem that while we must try and keep hope alive, sometimes there are things that get in our way of hearing the pretty bird sing.
Dickinson first writes how hope is something that “perches the soul” and “sings the tune,” saying that even though hope cannot speak that feeling of hope is a feeling that is embedded into our soul and the roots of hope are inside of us.
She continues to say that it “never stops – at all –” the use of the dashes here are to emphasize to the reader that hope really does not stop singing. That nothing fazes hope, nothing will affect it because it won’t stop singing. This can however be a very toxic feeling of hope, because Dickinson stresses that it doesn’t stop even at times where having hope is not necessarily healthy.
Hope can cheer us on in times where we need it the most, yet it can also make us keep things alive that should be. Waiting for a lover to return that really won’t but hoping that they will change their mind or hoping for a loved one who is critically ill to improve.
For myself, Dickinson’s idea that hope won’t stop resonates all too closely. My grandmother, who was my best friend, was sick with cancer for three years. She had the worst type of cancer that there is and was growing weary as each day went on. My family held out a hope that she would be totally fine and neglected to talk about it and for myself neglected to spend every second that was available with her.
In my mind she was going to get better, she had to. There was no way she wasn’t going to not be around. Hope bread a delusional idea into my head that ended up stabbing me in the back.