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Nature as a Metaphor of Life in Dickinson's Apparently With No Surprise

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Nature as a Metaphor of Life in Dickinson's Apparently With No Surprise        


In Emily Dickinson's poem "Apparently With No Surprise", the author tells the reader a story of nature acting out its part.  A late frost settles on newly bloomed flowers and kills them while the sun passes on unaffected by this event.  Dickinson uses this example of nature as a metaphor of life.  Just as nature must do what nature does without regard to the outcome, so must God let life go on without interruption or favoritism.  The forces of nature were set in motion long ago, and God does not change those things.  Similarly, man was given his agency, of choice, long ago, and God also will not change that; man must undergo whatever circumstances his choice brings about.


The flower, a symbol of frail beauty, like man, should know that the possibility of a late frost is there. That is why, "Apparently with no surprise" (337), the flower is Beheaded" (337) by the "Frost" (337).  The Frost has nothing against the flower. It is simply being what it is, frost. Flowers die when exposed to frost, just as a part of man dies when an accident occurs or something unplanned arises.  Man should not be angry with the event or that the event was a surprise because these things happen.  Man is not alive unless the possibility of death is also there.  Death defines life, as life defines death.  The flower, by just being alive, places itself at risk of death, but that is the way it is.  Nature obeys laws, just as man must obey those natural laws no matter how hard he tries to beat them.  "In accidental power-The blonde Assassin passes on-"(337: the phrase itself defines the true essence of nature.  Frost, the "blonde assassin", kills indiscriminately, unaware of the havoc it is bringing upon its victims.  That is the "accidental power" or the ability to kill without intent or even knowledge of the fact that it is killing.  The frost is innocent, naive to the "power" it possesses.  The word "blonde" here represents a characterization of the "assassin", not meaning a physical trait of light color.  The word blonde is associated with innocence, naiveté, and beauty.  The frost is beautiful, as evidenced by a sparkling morning in early spring, but it is also deadly.  The power and naiveté of the frost is like that of life; things happen for unknown reasons, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, but man must accept those truths just as the flower has and live life fully while alive.

The final three lines of the poem address the idea of a benevolent God, a God who, if truly caring, would not allow things like a late frost to occur.  "The Sun proceeds unmoved to measure off another day for an approving God" (337).  The lines ring of a sarcastic tone, but God is approving of the events of the poem.  The frost and the flower are both of this creation, and they are doing what they were intended to do.  In God's eyes, this is good, for God is not a puppet master, pulling the strings of life; instead, He is a father, watching his progeny grow and do as intended.  A father does not always enjoy the outcome of the natural order of life, but he does appreciate the order of life itself.  God gave His children the right to choose, the greatest gift mankind has, and although man does not always make the right choice, God allows us to choose anyway, no matter how much it hurts Him.

Dickinson may have been bitter about choices she was allowed to take, evidenced by possible sarcastic tones in the final lines of the poem, but she nonetheless penned a poem of great meaning and theme.  The age old battle against nature's ways is futile; it would be best if man could accept that and proceed in harmony with the course that is laid out before him.


Works Cited

Dickinson, Emily.  "Apparently with no Surprise."  Introduction to  Literature:  Reading, Writing, and Analyzing. 2nd ed.  Ed.  Dorothy U.  Seyler and Richard A. Wilan.  Englewood Cliffs: Prentice, 1990.  337.


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