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Analysis and comments on Crumbling is not an instant's Act by Emily Dickinson

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Comment 6 of 84, added on November 18th, 2008 at 9:34 PM.

Even though the topic of the poem is moral disintegration, it is sometimes
enlightening to adapt the poem (mutatis mutandi) to the process of aging.
It so aptly describes what growing old is like; it reminds me of a
conversation in one of Fitzgerald's novels, in which a person asks another
person, "how did you become a bankrupt?" and the other replies, "at first
gradually,and then suddenly": the slippery slope of crash's law.
An interesting companion piece to this which deals with the "borer in the
axis" is Graham Greene's wonderful short story "The Destructors." In this
story a group of post WWII youths (The Wormsley Common Gang) undertake to
destroy a residence created by the architect Christopher Wren. The main
character, a child of immense intelligence, verve and architectural
understnding, leads the gang in gutting and collapsing the house
(=civilization) like worms in an apple. Their destruction of the house is
an organized decay that the crash of the war itself couldn't destry.
Anyway, read that wonderful story and hold up to the light of ED's
wonderful poem. Kieran

kieran Johnston from Malaysia
Comment 5 of 84, added on February 18th, 2008 at 3:44 PM.

"Fundamental", "elemental", and "formal" --these descriptors of
"Devil's Work", one in each stanza uniting the poem, are chilling in their
scientific detachment. "Crash's Law" becomes a grim take off on scientific
principles and mathematical rules (such as X's Law, the Law of Gravity).
The word "crash" carries a bit of an "accidental" connotation that ED
challenges. No accident, a crash follows an accumulation of little "slip"s
("slipping", 12). Putting the Devil into this implies both that little
slips are evil and that evil exists in the middle of all our busy-ness,
work, and thoughts. The words "processes" and "organized" and "consecutive"
add to this sense of evil always calculatingly at work, always elbowing in
in the form of any not quite right short cuts -- "The Devil is in the
Details"? The word "Cuticle" used here requires a good dictionary but the
idea of a little chip or cut in an unimportant place destroying the whole
is also fitting.
What kind of Crumbling and Crash can this poem apply to? Surely to
the sudden revelations that destroy a character, as we are so used to
reading about in the news and in historical muckraking. Also to personal,
psychological breakdown, as is so often assumed in reading this poem as if
it is "Just another Dickinson depression piece." But so many impersonal
and cold adjectives emphasize the public and institutional crash over the
personal and psychological. Surely little individual misdemeanors count in
a social or economic or political system. Those little cheats and quick
and dirty solutions are
not forgivable errors of individuals. They involve the "Soul", and that is
individual, but they bring down a world too as each is a "Borer in the
Axis" (7). This image conjures a picture of the world, a globe spinning on
its axis. So one individual stretch of ethical or moral boundaries can have
devastating global consequences.
This timely poem could be applied to current financial crashes as
well as to the way the War in Iraq keeps going and seems to be bringing
down ("crumbling") the country's reputation, economics, and functioning
although it was built on apparently deliberate deceptions. This poem is a
guide to the way an institution and an individual become corrupt and, of
course, being Emily Dickinson, can be applied to any seemingly sudden
"Fail"ure.

N Sullivan from United States

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Information about Crumbling is not an instant's Act

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 997. Crumbling is not an instant's Act
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 14591 times


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