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Analysis and comments on One need not be a Chamber -- to be Haunted -- by Emily Dickinson

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The Extent of the Flesh 10-20-06

Known only as Poem 670, this work of Emily Dickenson’s is worth more
insight than its flat title might indicate…There are indeed many “Corridors
– surpassing” in the human soul. The deep and even ominous innards of
humanity are all in the brain. But that is a large step for one poetess to
make, is the author’s reputation up to it? I would surely hope so. She is
quite famous for these ventures beyond the boundary of what most can
accept; this particular poem is no different. It carries much more than
its name weight in esoteric philosophy. From the very beginning, it can be
found that death is not only a two way door, but a secret passageway into
the ego of a man.
There is a link with death here that is more than a craft of words, and
that throughout the poem, many such examples of morbidity draw this
conclusion. It is quite bizarre that such a concept should present itself.
It could very well be a guilty conscience that is what haunt’s a person,
with murder weighing heavily one one’s mind; yet so much says that this is
just a tiny fraction of the terror. But, it has been said, that life on
this earth is merely a shade of death: the eventual progression through
this invisible door is not avoidable. Another analogy is that these
“Corridors” are likened in a rat maze, where men scramble to find an exit,
to find answers to these random questions of our existence, yet all
pathways are a dead end. Dickenson perhaps takes the position that death
is not in its own, an answer, that even the soul cannot discover the
formula for truth. Furthermore if the souls never truly leave, then, even
in the vastest of labyrinths, there will be some encounters that defy
expectation, and yes, therefore, reality.
So much is left out of this basic, if not grand, hypothesis. This madrigal
is the form of fear, in assassins, ghouls, and even perhaps a hint of
vampires (“through an Abbey gallop,” [9] it speaks of fleeing to a church
for protection). The constant theme of fear is well put, for all things of
which they speak are beyond your control: assassins, ghosts, vampires, and
most importantly, your mind. The brain processes all figures and forms
indiscriminately, all as outside sources, very little is actually
cognizant. The truth that has been revealed is what may come to the
surface as one becomes more aware of what the brain really sees. That is
the true horror among horrors!
Now, a feature about Dickenson’s poems is that they can take so many
different forms, some obvious, mundane, some ludicrous, far fetched.
Dickenson, herself, in all probability, realized this the most. And if
there were to be comparisons, or a contrast, between all these theories, it
would be much more apparent the objective of any particular poem. A
daunting undertaking indeed, seeing as Dickenson’s personal life (the only
solid evidence for study, principally) is not very accurately remarked.
Given that this poem centers on the mind, it can be stated with some
conviction that all of this exercise is for naught. “O’erlooking a
superior spectre—\ Or More—” (19-20), what is this specter? It could be
understood as the fundamental hopelessness of understanding, the emptiness
of the universe, the darker lines in the human figure, and our ghastly
All of this fear comes from the evil borne from the source of man’s
psychological fear: of being out of control, of not possessing control over
the world. It is a very important consideration, for “far safer” is a
phrase that denotes the level of ability to maintain status quo, despite
how it is used in much more monotonous language. Whether or not these are
real problems is not the focus, but rather that they are manifestations of
extremely dangerous and uncontrollable entities. But man is not different
than these imagined beasts, for here Dickenson is constantly pointing to
the depths of the human mind for the source and power of these creatures.
Could she be merely speaking of the more acutely effected persons, those
who suffer extreme paranoia, psychosis, or the like? The constant flux of
rhythm in the poem could be a slight tip off to the fact that this is not
entirely the case, and that many less suspicious citizens are close to this
sphere of dark influences as well. There is overall, less of the actual
poem’s content in the even syllable lines, and if considered, are told as a
short description of a poor, homeless person. Not a story of supernatural
implicitness, but neither is a short tale of a guilt ridden crook, killed
in his apartment, which is the other half of this poem, contained in the
odd syllable lines. It is so very interesting that both of these people
are in such terrible circumstances, and both are just as likely to be
completely forgotten, but their misery is not a singular phenomenon.
Dickens states that this sorrow is in everyone, the spirit of sorrow
lurking in the psyche. Yes, again it must be understood that these demon’s,
whether real or imagined, are just the focal points of the cold empty shell
of humanity that is on this earth.
As was mentioned before Dickenson uses such drastic ways to make aware some
important features, thus making the sporadic highlighting of different
nouns is quite a tricky aspect to analyze. However, nouns are not the only
words to be capitalized in a randomized fashion (of which there are
twenty-two); there are four adjectives and one verb which are capitalized.
Two more adjectives which are used to begin a line and thus are
automatically capitalized are not included, the obvious enjambment of these
two lines is sufficient to consider them (Material Place/External Ghost
[4/6]). All the time it stands out, but these words are really nothing but
distraction. They do not imply more than what they are. Regardless of
their symbolic value, it is used to give this ethereal poem some physical
aspects and to tie it down to this reality which has been largely
popularized and accepted. But, in doing so, makes these two competing
philosophies even more similar. By likening this reality to an unsolvable
puzzle, the only direction the argument can take is one of futility, of
utter fear of any hope or security, a much popularized ideology in today’s
society. The simple variation in the Rhyme scheme indicated the importance
of the first and fourth stanzas, both speaking of the intrinsic alter ego
in people, one which is impossible to remove, a bane to sanity. That which
is a spirit of depravity; this is an idea that many persons entertained in
that time period, shortly after the Civil War in America, when death and
chaos were far spread still.
Did she consider that this uncertain time would eventually return to the
tragedy of this epic and bloody period in our countries history; the bottom
line question in regards to Dickenson’s writing in a future context. That
is what is indeed in between the lines, but the assumption is postulated
upon the existence of unwritten lines, a whole previous stanza, which is
omitted. The poem follows the characters immediate revelation instead.
The only evidence to present is the abruptness of the poem’s contents in
more clear tones, coupled with the existence of an off rhyme in those two
highlighted stanzas. If one were to produce a first stanza, which was not
to actually written, but implied, which was rhymed in a-b-c-b, then two
pairs of three stanzas would fit together. The poem has such a good flow
from the nothingness and into the unwritten future
– recall the ending hyphen – that this seems to be appropriate. And if
this flow continues in a way suggested by this radical theory, then nothing
constrains it to only one period of time. The history up to that point is
the first stanza, and the hyphen in the last line creates a starting place
for the future.
Death, the one thing which ends all other ends, and birth, which begins all
beginnings, is dogmatic theology challenged by this elegant, if not
disturbing, poetry. It puts the entire existence of humanity in each
person. This prevents the destruction of that system of thought, and
furthermore promotes the timelessness of mortality. Ironic, even
paradoxical, but the moments in life are the moments to be remembered for
eternity. The vastness of such a concept is what haunts the minds of men,
but it is quite a fitting place for it, the abode all these identities are
stockpiled within. Death in that labyrinth only pushes you into its
depths, not removing you forever from the living. Thus we are in the
flesh, a constituted identity of the past and the future, and the brain is
the core of that ever elusive concept ‘self’.

Rickr0ll from United States
Comment 1 of 30, added on March 28th, 2008 at 10:10 PM.

well since no one's posted here yet i guess i will be the first to share my

first stanza: basically ed is saying you don't need to be a chamber to be
haunted because you carry your own haunted place with you.
second stanza: Far safer, of a midnight meeting external ghost = it is
safer to see a ghost (physically, externally, on the outside) than to
confront the interior, which is your mind.
second to last stanza: it is much more dangerous to look inside yourself
than looking on the outside.
nothing's scarrier than our inner selves.
last stanza: you can't keep out the major intruder which is part of

HL from United States

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Information about One need not be a Chamber -- to be Haunted --

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 670. One need not be a Chamber -- to be Haunted --
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 303 times
Poem of the Day: Aug 10 2005

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By: Emily Dickinson

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