Dickinson Essay, Research Paper
After reading both ?Tell All the Truth but Tell It Slant? by Emily Dickinson and ?Harlem? by Langston Hughes, I determined that the main difference between the two poems is both poets? use of diction. Dickinson makes use of abstract diction in her poem, using words like bright, delight, superb, and dazzle. Using the word ?truth? in itself is an enormous abstraction. Hughes, however, uses more concrete diction, with words such as raisin, fester, sore, meat, and load. These are actual, physical things that exist. I see this as the most significant difference between the two poems.
At first glance, Dickinson?s poem made no sense to me. I then, however, tore it apart and came up with the following explication. Line one basically states ?tell me the whole truth, but don?t be so direct. Don?t just come out and say it.? In line two, when the speaker refers to a circuit, she is most likely comparing the way they tell the truth to the way circuits wind their way around a room, mostly hidden, but getting their job done. Lines three and four are saying the direct truth may be too much to handle, such as the sun may be too bright to look at directly. Lines five and six are telling this person to explain the truth like one might explain lightning to a child, with a kind, soothing tone of voice that?s easy to understand. Lines seven and eight say that the truth must come a little at a time, or gradually, so that it may leave us in some suspense, rather than hitting us all at once and leaving us unable to comprehend the whole truth for what it is. Dickinson?s use of alliteration shows in the poem, especially in lines one, two, four, and seven, where she uses words in pairs, such as tell, truth, success, circuit, the, truth, superb, and surprise.
Dickinson?s style appears almost childlike in its descriptions including fogs and bogs, as well as lively energy expressed by the poem through its use of dashes and brief wording. Dickinson seems to be addressing her spinster, hermit-like existence (I?m nobody) and her preference to it. The poetess seems to relate that her situation has not left her without a sense of humor. Dickinson’s emphasis is less on humor and more on expressing irony. It expresses the quality of brevity and lightness in that it’s composition is full of dashes, with even full sentences broken into short, quick actions that easily roll off of the tongue when spoken aloud (How dreary – to be – Somebody). The technical composition of this poem is two stanzas, however, Dickinson is able to refresh the form with her use of dashes and short words to give it energy and liveliness. She mocks the conventional need for self-importance through publicity (How public – like a Frog – / To tell one’s name – the livelong June -), suggesting that the audience isn’t that interested (/ To an admiring Bog). She instead seems to idealize her solitude by creating the mysterious feeling of a secret society of social outcasts (Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!).
Dickinson also uses an a b c b rime scheme. Langston Hughes?s poem ?Harlem? was bit easier to explicate because of his use of concrete diction. The first line is simply an introduction into the poem, which in itself is a pondering of what happens to a dream when it must be postponed or put off. The main body of the poem goes into detail about what happens to the dream. Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Fester like a sore? The whole poem is basically a simile. The author compares this deferred dream to a dried up raisin, a festering sore, rotten meat, syrupy sweetness that?s crusty and sugary, a heavy load that just sags, and finally, does it just explode? He uses very good imagery, and I?m almost able to see this dream being put off, forgotten about, or deteriorating.
Both authors, although using completely different methods, come across very clearly with their main point. While Dickinson is abstract, and Hughes is more concrete with his diction, they both use considerable similes, Hughes more than Dickinson. For example, Hughes uses similes in almost every line of his poem. Dickinson uses only a few, such as ?as lightning to the children?. Dickinson also uses personification, in saying that the truth must dazzle gradually, or using the phrase ?the Truth?s superb surprise?, referring to the truth as a proper noun, giving it human characteristics.
The tone of Dickinson?s poem differs from that of Hughes?s poem in the sense that Hughes?s poem is inquisitive, while Dickinson?s is more commanding. Dickinson uses her ability to write humorously and ironically (as seen in her suggestion of the use of microscopes) to present a firm, controversial opinion into what could be dismissed as an irreverent, inconsequential piece of writing. It can be stated the examples of Emily Dickinson’s work discussed in this essay show the poetess to be highly skilled in the use of humor and irony. The use of these two tools in her poems is to stress a point or idea the poetess is trying to express, rather than being an end in themselves. These two tools allow her to present serious critiques of her society and the place she feels she has been allocated into by masking her concerns in a light-hearted, irreverent tone.
The speaker of ?Tell all the Truth?? is saying exactly that- tell all the truth but tell it slant, while the speaker in ?Harlem? is more contemplative, asking what happens to a dream deferred. The imagery of both poems leaves me with solid pictures in my mind. In ?Tell All The Truth?? the Truth takes on this certain aura, where you feel that experiencing it would be something wonderful, and it would dazzle you to no end. Also, as mentioned above, ?Harlem? creates the picture of a dream deteriorating, in one way or another. Hughes?s use of language easily put these images in front of us for us to see. He simply did not write about black life, he wrote in a way that educated America. He never tried to portray African American life the way some may stereotype it. Hughes related his won personal experience and hardships, and created characters that were true to life and represented the prevalent social themes of the historical time period in which he wrote in. All of his works in someway are relevant to a historical event. All of his works are someway relevant to his life.
Both poets are excellent writers who are able to get the point across using different techniques and descriptive words. This contrast may have to do with the background and influences in each of the poet?s lives. Dickinson was able to be humorous and ironic in her writings while Hughes tended to be more serious. Hughes, coming from a very hard life and experiences, probably did not have the ability or capability of making jokes regarding the situation and events in his works.