Essay About Love in The Love of Thee a Prism Be

Essay About Love in The Love of Thee a Prism Be

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Love in The Love of Thee—a Prism Be

Emily Dickinson views love with an allegorical neatness created in her poem The Love of Thee—a Prism Be. Dickinson believes that it is the prismatic quality of passion that matters, and the energy passing through an experience of love reveals a spectrum of possibilities.

In keeping with her tradition of looking at the "circumference" of an idea, Dickinson never actually defines a conclusive love or lover at the end of her love poetry, instead concentrating on passion as a whole. Although she never defined a lover in her poems, many critics do believe that the object or focal point of her passion was Charles Wadsworth, a clergyman from Philadelphia.

Throughout Emily’s life she held emotionally compelling relationships with both men and women. The differences in the prismatic qualities of each type of relationship come through in Dickinson’s prism imagery. Morris summarizes these differences in her essay:

In one [male prism] the supremacy of the patriarch informs the rituals of courtship, family, government, and religion; in the other [female prism], the implied equality of sisterhood is played out in ceremonies of romantic, familial, social, and even religious reciprocity. (103)


In her poetry, Emily represents the males as the Lover, Father, King, Lord, and Master as the women take complimentary positions to their male superiors, and many times the relationship between the sexes is seen in metaphor—women as "His Little Spaniel" or his hunting gun. The woman’s existence is only contingent to the encircling power of the man (104). It could be noted that the relationship with her father created some of the associations that Dickinson used in her work—her father being involved in government, religion, and in control of the family.

Dickinson’s linked imagery in her male love poetry focuses on suns, storms, volcanoes, and wounds (100). There are always elements of disturbance or extremes and explosive settings. There are also repeated examples of the repression of love causing storm imagery to become "silent, suppressed" volcanic activity—something on the verge of explosion or activity.

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Of course, in the repressed individual the potential for explosion or action can be very dangerous, and frequently in Dickinson’s work this kind of love relationship ends of with someone receiving a wound (100).

Works Cited

Morris, Adalaide. "The Love of Thee—a Prism Be." Feminist Critics Read Emily Dickinson. Ed. Suzanne Juhasz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983. 98-113.



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