Emily Dickinson was not fond of the concept of marriage during the mid-nineteenth century and wanted to show the gender roles that defined a husband and wife. The reasons behind this are: how women were treated without a voice, only showing that women were only used for labor and work, and because of this, Emily defined marriage as a risk taking concept for woman. For this paper, four poems that Emily has written to bring about the system of marriage gender roles and how they differ from defining identity will be investigated.
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Two poems: I’m ceded-I’ve stopped being theirs (poem 508) and I’m wife-I’ve finished that (poem 199) are used to describe the concept of women and identity. The other two poems: I gave myself to him (poem 580) and Title Divine is mine (poem 1072), denounce marriage, and show the loss of identity that the woman goes through when marrying a man.
The concept of marriage through way of gender roles (Franklin; Seyersted) in the articles and poetry was a theme that Emily takes control, trying to show the gender norms that come with each side. Her poetry and concept in regards to losing identity (Franklin; Smith; Stonum; Yao) in other articles and poetry are discussed in the realm of buying a woman through marriage and comparing the woman to a product. The factor of religion (Franklin; Leiter; Wolff) in the books ranges from marriage to God and comparing the differences that women endure when becoming married to a man.
The articles focus on Emily’s poetry that was used to describe the society of women’s roles in marriage and in the home where they begin to lose their identity. Men take control of society’s norms from the women: women did not have any sort of main status in the era, women did not have control over any payments, social and political involvement, and the rest of the women simply lived in the house (Seyersted 1986). Seyersted also tells that the poetry that is used to define women’s roles is much more diverse when it comes to Dickinson. Without a status that shows that women were just as important as men, they were non-human and moreso objects that can be purchased rather than loved as human beings. Her poem: I’m wife-I’ve finished that (Franklin 2005) tells of the different aspects of freedom upon being either a single woman or a married woman and how the aspect of losing your identity was shown from many counts of unhappy marriages in the mid- nineteenth century. This article and poem present comparisons upon which identity and freedom are lost from the view of the woman getting married.
From the personification of identity loss, Emily by being single through her life, she expressed her freedom from society and her limitations that were accustomed to women in the mid-nineteenth century. Her views on the subject of marriage show the influential expectations of her life and the goal of free writing of her poems (Yao 2018). Yao, in his article, shows that, from her poetry, Title divine, is mine (Franklin 2005) Emily explains in regards to her single life and how a marriage to God will not keep you shrouded in your home, hidden from the public eye. The material of this article and how it conveys the usage of the poem is to show that her identity is sealed from within her and she knows who and what she is within the concept of a proper woman.
The poem, I gave myself to him (Franklin 2001) tell of the economic submissiveness that the man shows the woman, showing that society favors the man having control of life’s work than the woman. It also uses the word purchaser to further show how the man buys the woman through marriage. In comparison, Emily does not need to be tied to a man and instead tells that there are ugly things to consider in the side of marriage (Smith 1991). Smith conveys why there is an ugly side to marriage and, from the poem, tells the role of gender and how their proper status is defined by use of identity loss.
Emily knows that there are risks when it comes to marriage and the flaws that come of it. These examples from the articles presented tell of how society enables women to be owned by men. From this contract, Emily tells of this marriage problem because she related to this in one way or another and having awareness of what transpired because of it (Stonum 2013). She breaks this contract in her poetry, and through analysis of the articles presented.
Instead of an identity of self, Emily is described in some books as using identity in the aspect of religion. She uses words that will not leave you time to watch her coming towards you (Wolff 1986). Wolff uses the concept of baptism and of the poetry I’m ceded-I’ve stopped being theirs (Franklin 2005) to show how Emily was not free to choose the aspects of her beginnings. Emily, according to the poem had two baptisms: one as a baby into the Puritan church and the other into the identity of making choices and not being joined in anyone’s life, but her own. Using this poem in particular, Leiter (2007) shows how the second baptism helps Emily realize the premise of being lonely and how it conjures the idea of comparing the single life to the married life using religion. Stonum (2013) in his book also shows why God is more important.
Emily was happy to be lonely and not having someone as a husband to be responsible for her and only getting visited by friends and relatives and barely going out at all. Her desire to live in her own paradise makes her obtain an environment free to show her devotion upon herself. Her poems provided her with a clear mind and an inclusive thought process in the description and theme of marriage. Emily has an identity, which is made possible by not being in the realm of a husband. Her life of loneliness has brought about her freedom to create and extend her ideas upon the role of women being secondary to men
These articles, poetry and books are all arguments that follow Emily’s view on marriage within the realm of losing identity and self. Women did not have the status of being helpful to men and were only relied upon in household labor. It was not worth the effort to be placed in a situation such as marriage where, as a woman, the odds of having an equal statue to a man were not in your favor. The concept of not being treated as a human and instead being a product of a purchaser, makes Emily go against the union of marriage and tells how being happy with the concept of loneliness since she was not in bondage to a man, showing that religion and devoting yourself to God is more important than worldly concepts and people.
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