While much of Emily Dickinson's poetry has been described as sad or morose, the poetess did use humor and irony in many of her poems. This essay will address the humor and/ or irony found in five of Dickinson's poems: "Faith" is a Fine Invention, I'm Nobody! Who are you?, Some keep the Sabbath Going to Church and Success Is Counted Sweetest. The attempt will be made to show how Dickinson used humor and / or irony for the dual purposes of comic relief and to stress an idea or conclusion about her life and environment expressed by the poetess in the respective poem. The most humorous or ironic are some of the shorter poems, such as the four lined stanzas of "Faith" is a Fine Invention and Success Is Counted Sweetest.
In "Faith"..., Dickinson presents a witty and biting satirical look at Faith and its limitations. While it still amuses readers today, it must be mentioned that this short poem would have had a greater impact and seriousness to an audience from the period Dickinson lived in. Dickinson was raised in a strict Calvinist household and received most of her education in her youth at a boarding school that also followed the American Puritanical tradition she was raised in. In this short, witty piece Dickinson addresses two of the main obsessions of her generation: The pursuit of empirical knowledge through science, faith in an all-knowing, all-powerful Christian god and the debate on which was the more powerful belief. In this poem Dickinson uses humor to ease her position in the debate on to the reader. Dickinson uses her ability to write humourously and ironically (as seen in her suggestion of the use of microscopes) to present a firm, controversial opinion into w...
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...ntuate the humor in the juxtaposition of the objects in order not to trivialize her own beliefs, but allows enough humor to enter the description to stamp the poem with the child-like free spiritedness found in ...Nobody.... Again in this poem, the poetess' desire for seclusion and unconventionality is expressed eloquently through a light-handed treatment of the subject matter.
In conclusion, 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.
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