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Introduction

Readers may find that the way Dickinson wrote is very similar to the way that we text messages – the lines are short, broken, and sometimes as if they haven’t been organized well. The words are also quite clear and straightforward; the paradoxical language she used may make us confused, but it is also to some extent similar to the black humor we apply in modern communication, requiring some thinking to get the real meaning. Therefore, the same as how texting allures us, the light style of poems is no doubt reader-friendly, while there is also something hidden behind its clear, straightforward expression. When it comes to Dickinson’s deep meaning is hidden behind simple, straightforward diction, which is an embodiment of her personality and the collective unconsciousness of her time.

Personality

As Freud has said, a writer’s personality can be seen in his works of art. Personality is a crucial factor that contributed to Dickinson’s unique writing style. Abnormally shy and retiring, Dickinson led an inactive, inward life which she deliberately chose to lead so that she could achieve personal integrity. She spent her whole life in the small town of Amherst, and never married. Therefore, as a poetess who was a recluse, the range of Dickinson’s worldly experience was small by any standards. This isolated personality enabled her to see the world with more pristine eyes, and then write her words briefly and freshly.

Take the poem Again His Voice Is at the Door for example. It says We talk in venture and toss, a kind of plummet strain, each sounding shyly just how deep the other’s foot had been. It depicts the mutual surmise between a man and a woman. The literary figure may be purely imaginary, yet it displays her perception and expectation of love. These fresh and plain words function as a mirror of Dickinson’s inner world, reflecting her inner clarity as well as her spiritual unrest.

In addition, the creativity, sensitivity, and profundity of Dickinson’s personality make her works simple rather than childish. The diction is not complicated, and the theme is quite deep and thought-provoking. Take the poem There’s a Certain Slant of Light for example. In this poem, Dickinson associates the winter sunlight with the image of death: When it comes, the landscape listens, shadows hold their breath; when it goes, ’ tis like the distance on the look of death. Dickinson felt in awe and horror with the light fading, as if looking at death in the distance. A rough man cannot associate sunlight with death. The chances are that he won’t even notice the light since he isn’t the kind of sensitive person. It’s also hard for kids to make this connection. They are more likely to praise the beauty of the sunlight without thinking further since the theme of death is too heavy and distant for a young age. Only the sensitive and deep-thinking person can come up with this idea, exploring the meaning of human life from common occurrences.

Collective unconsciousness

Two forces influence the creation process of poets. One is the inner force of the poet, another is the internal force of his or her time. Just as Jung has said, art represents the collective unconsciousness of the artists, while artists unconsciously become its spokesmen or tools. As a poet, Dickinson is no doubt loyal to her thinking, while she is equally faithful to the era in which she lived.

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Transcendentalism is an outstanding representative of the collective unconsciousness of that time. As a major factor affecting the creation of Dickinson, transcendentalism features self-reflection, respect for personality, and the internal relationship between nature and human beings. It also expresses the semi-religious ideas of nature, believing that there is a connection between the universe and the human soul. It’s easy to find clues that indicate the influence of transcendentalism in Dickinson’s works. In her poems, God exists in the natural form of trees, flowers, light, or darkness, which is justified by transcendentalism. The visual symbol of God’s spirit enriches her inner world and helps her release her feelings, making the lack of worldly experience compensated by her spiritual richness.

Still, take the poem There’s a Certain Slant of Light for example. In this poem, Dickinson described a depressive feeling a slant of winter sunlight gave her. The image Dickinson chose—— sunlight, was quite common, yet Dickinson regarded it as an embodiment of God’s Spirit. This association was typical of transcendentalism, making the originally common image rise from the mundane level to a higher, spiritual level. This association also helped Dickinson express her awareness of the human predicament and her spiritual unrest.

To sum up, transcendentalism freed Dickinson from the idea that confined human beings and enabled her to see herself as an individual with an identity. Instead of regarding God as an authority, she was able to talk to God, questioning the existence of the distant, untouchable God, which no doubt added profundity to her poems.

Conclusion

The charm of Dickinson’s poetry exists in its clean and simple style, as well as the deep meaning hidden behind the clear, straightforward expression. The unique combination of simple expression and profound meaning was an embodiment of Dickinson’s personality and the collective unconsciousness of her time. Her poetry is full of uncertainty and imagination, together with thought-provoking implications, that a person who hates rigidities and enjoys meditating is bound to be crazy in love with her masterpiece.

Reference

    1. Johnson, Thomas H. ed. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson [M]. Oxford: the Alden Press, 1975.

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