Individualism In Emily Dickinson's Poetry

1495 Words6 Pages
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe” claimed philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, inducing powerful questions regarding the role of the individual in the society. The individual can be alleged to become a negligible stain when set in comparison of an entity with such greater dimensions, such as the society or the natural world. Similar questions have been directed at the reader of a variety of Emily Dickinson’s works, as well as Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz: If This Is a Man. The latter, of Italian descent, tells a non-fictional account of the experiences of the individual in the Auschwitz extermination camp, which claimed the lives of many of the European Jewry. The dreads described in Levi’s…show more content…
In her poem “Much Madness Is the Divinest Sense”, Dickinson states, as though in the form of an urgent warning, a choice and consequence, “[D]emur – and you’re straightway dangerous” (Dickinson 7). The dash instils a technical, objective aspect in the statement, as though it was an algorithmic mechanism which includes or excludes the individual. Dickinson reaches the insight that individualism is oppressed, and the exclusive paradigm it represents, is a vice in a world becoming identical. Dickinson revisits the question of the self’s role in the society in her poem “I 'm Nobody! Who are you?”, which begins with its title: “I’m Nobody! Who are you? / Are you – Nobody – too? / How dreary – to be – Somebody!” (1-5). The capitalization of “Nobody”, as though it was a name, invites the reader to examine the manner in which identity is a condemned value in society and the individual is encouraged to remain a negligible figure, as do all others. The supposed dialogue, or apostrophe, of the speaker towards a second “Nobody” enhances Dickinson’s message, that the representation of the self, even by name, is…show more content…
The American poet and the Italian author, both encountered, albeit in different dimensions, abominable circumstances causing an atmosphere of isolation in both works. The individual is a crucial component in the cooperation of society, yet also negligible compared to the colossal entity it and nature are. One must consider, therefore, the balance must be found between the three entities, in order to prevent one from obtaining power over another. Emily Dickinson, due to her figurative linguistic approach, is able to capture more identifiable moments to represent her struggle to acknowledge her place in the larger world. Nevertheless, one must consider that Levi conveys similar messages in circumstances not familiar to the reader, implying the urgency of a personal self-examination to ensure a universal
Open Document