Nature is one of the most magnetic themes in the history of humankind, something that everyone encounters on a daily basis but not everyone can fathom. Ubiquitous and enigmatic, the mystery of nature has captured the imagination of the most sensitive souls of our culture writers and poets. Among the most famous and charismatic works of literature centered on nature and its profound effect upon an individual one cannot but name Emily Dickinson's iconic poem There's a Certain Slant of Light. This poem is highly imaginative, subtly philosophical and inexplicably compelling in terms of its mood and atmosphere, notwithstanding the gloomy undertones. Through nimble use of metaphors, especially personification, purposefully eccentric syntax, rhythm and rhyming, the poetess managed to portray the experience of seeing the evening light in a natural setting in quite a palpable way as an embodiment of an oppressive force similar to the one Dickinson had to face and fight in the society of the day.
Dickinson often experimented with the ways in which formal aspects of poetry including genre, rhythm and rhyming could add new shades to the semantic picture of her poetry and There's a Certain Slant of Light is a fine specimen of such creative search. If the readers look back at the Italian ancestor of the word stanza, which meant stopping place, they will see that every one of the four stanzas of Dickinson's poem can also be considered certain stations in the surreal synaesthetic journey from light to sound and back.
The structure of the poem reflects the general atmosphere of elusiveness which one experiences upon contemplating Dickinson's Poetry: We see without being told what to think (Detweiler, Jasper 132). The poet Conrad Aiken, wrote about Emily Dickinson's poem Because I Could Not Stop for Death: She has presented a typical Christian theme in its final irresolution, without making any final statement about it (Aiken). The same phenomenon can be observed in the poem There's a Certain Slant of Light. There is no final clarity about the theme and its interpretation: it is open for the new readings. The author creates a very peculiar somber mood without being too specific about her philosophical, religious and social views or lifting up the carefully arranged veil of mystery. But the feminist interpretation is quite possible: the poem might be a symbolic representation of the oppressive atmosphere in which women had to live in Dickensons times. In the Dickinsons times a woman passed from her fathers hands into the hands of her husband. Love was not an obligatory prerequisite. A wife was not free to make her own decisions anymore and often in its routine, daily troubles and gray dullness her life started to resemble what might be thought of a certain slant of light, a certain perspective adopted by the society. But it is important to say that this interpretation is not final and ultimate as Dickinson only outlines, sketches and hints. Her aim, like that of any other great writer, is to ask questions, not to give answers.
The four stanzas of the poem are a spiritual, sensual journey. Due to peculiarities of meter it sounds somehow meditative. At the same time the occasional rhymes create a feeling that the readers stumble upon the keywords and it certainly sharpens their perception. Alliterations, repetitions, internal rhymes help introduce a peculiar rhythm which is reminiscent of breathing of a person excited by something. Imagery so effortlessly weaved into the poetic texture of the poem offers the reader a chance to look at nature, life and death of an individual as closely related and interconnected phenomena. All these literary devices create a complex multi-level semantic structure which triggers profound thinking, evokes deep and sincere feeling and is ever open to interpretation.
Dickinson's poem is an incredibly modern work of art in terms of its experimental form and timeless themes. Nowadays in the flourishing hipster culture fascination with nature is no less ubiquitous than in the times of Ancient Greece or Romanticism. Literature, theater, cinema, art and photography, philosophy and science are preoccupied with the mystery of nature. On the one hand, in many works of art, especially within the mass culture, nature has become a commonplace notion. It has ceased to be a unique intimate experience. On the other hand, it is sometimes considered to be boring to the point of total exclusion from the cultural space of impeccably urban movies, books and music. Both perspectives are quite one-sided as they let the recipients lose sight of the fact that appreciation of nature is the other side of the appreciation of their own individuality. Profound and thoughtful approach to this opposition in the poem by Emily Dickinson is the necessary color in the bright mosaic of modern culture.
Aiken, Conrad. Emily Dickinson. In A Reviewer's ABC. New York: Meridian Books, 1935. Quoted as "Emily Dickinson" in Harold Bloom, ed. Emily Dickinson, Bloom's Major Poets. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishing, 1998. (Updated 2007.) Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. Web. 1 March 2016.
Detweiler, Robert and David Jasper. Religion and Literature. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. Print.
Dickinson, Emily. Because I could not stop for Death. In New Poetry Works: A Workbook Anthology. Claremont: New Africa Books, 2007. Print.
Stanza. Online Etymology Dictionary. Web. 1 March 2016.
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