One of Emily Dickinson’s poems, formally titled “The feet of people walking home,” is of some interest in its own merit. Unlike some of Dickinson’s other poems, such as the ones that exist among other versions due to a few dissimilarities, this poem is duplicated verbatim. To the untrained eye, this triviality would often be overlooked, were it not for the fact that Emily Dickinson had not intended on publishing many of her poems. Why, then, did she duplicate this poem? Perhaps a more in-depth analysis of the poem, as well as the current events in Dickinson’s life, would answer this query. Estimated to have been written in the year 1858, the poem begins its first stanza by conveying the emotions of gaiety and joyfulness, which are associated with passage to heaven. A much more somber note pervades the second stanza, in which Dickinson uses metaphors to compare the entrance to heaven with the act of theft. The third stanza combines the previous two by hinting at the theory that those who are already in heaven do not want more people entering heaven’s gates, because that would diminish the high status that heaven and angels hold.
The tone in the first stanza is of joyousness and excitement, as people make their way to heaven. Dickinson uses the words “gayer,” “hallelujah,” and “singing” to emphasize the uplifting feeling here. It could be argued that this is the point in the humans’ lives (or deaths, or afterlives, depending on how one looks at it) when they reach the pinnacle of happiness, for they have finally entered heaven. The humans, now dead, would then acquire wings, immortality, and an angelic status that rises far above that of humans. Much like Dickinson’s other poems, this one uses metaphors to represent similar things, such as “home,” which represents “heaven,” “snow,” which represents the “clouds” on which heaven resides, and “vassals,” which represents the “angels” who serve God.
The second stanza shares a relation to the first, but it could be described as being completely opposite in tone. Dickinson uses the words “extorted,” “larceny,” and “death” to emphasize the crime that is personified here. Dickinson uses more metaphors in this stanza to compare the onrush of people entering heaven to divers who take pearls from the sea. In both cases, a sense of “value” is diminished, or perhaps even lost. Referring back to the first stanza, Dickinson subtly states that the status of angels would no longer be as honorable or magnificent as it is now if everyone were to acquire wings, achieve immortality, and enter heaven.