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Analysis and comments on Tell all the Truth but tell it slant -- by Emily Dickinson

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Comment 23 of 393, added on January 22nd, 2008 at 12:12 AM.

A couple of things: First, even though "truth" is capitalized at all points
throughout, it's a reference to the Platonic idea of truth as a static
concept. Plato thought, contrary to the pre-Modern philosophers, that
there existed a world of ideas and that everything we see is an imperfect
replication of that idea. Plato thought that these imperfections, although
real, were less important than the world of ideas, which due to their ideal
nature, were perfect. See also the Allegory of the Cave and Plato's belief
in a single static truth from which there may be different perceptual
realities yet only one real truth.

Second, although the post about Dickinson's personal life is thoughtful as
to the subtext, it does not necessarily follow that Dickinson was writing
about what may or may not have been her personal experiences and beliefs
concerning the existence of a supreme being. What is just as likely is the
alternative explanation most people adopt after reading the text.

Since "Truth" is capitalized, and because the stanza concludes as it does,
I think it could just as easily be talking about the sudden knee-jerk
reaction most feel when confronted by something to which they do not agree.
The line "The Truth must dazzle gradually" is, I believe, a statement
about the nature of confrontation. That which we learn to accept over time
is much easier to swallow than a whole suddenly presented to us without

Third, every post thus far has ignored the second line of the poem.
"Success in Circuit lies." When the poem was authored in in the latter
half of the 19th Century, the judicial departments were divided into
Circuits. Like "Truth," I believe this word is capitalized for a reason-
it references the legal jurisdictional entities prevalent in her day. As
her father was a lawyer and public official, it is not unlikely that Emily
was exposed to the law at some level and was thus aware of the practice of
"slant"ing facts in legal argument in order to be "success"ful before the
"Circuit" court.

Thus, although the religious reading may be one valid way of reading the
text and understanding her biography, I believe the more likely result of
such a study produces a permutation of general and legal advice.

Not a Moron
Comment 22 of 393, added on January 16th, 2008 at 7:59 PM.

Carson, no offense but you're an idiot. The person who said "God is
probably not real" was saying it in reference to the poem, not about
himself. And even if he was saying it about himself, you shouldn't tell
people who don't believe in God to "go to church! read the bible!"
Seriously, it's rude. People have different beliefs than you do - get over

In fact I'm not convinced that this poem was about God. I think that's
stretching it a little. I dunno I'll look into it further

Rachel from United States
Comment 21 of 393, added on November 25th, 2007 at 6:25 PM.

Just to say something about that comment about that "God is probably not
real" you need to go to church. He is so real! READ THE BIBLE!

Comment 20 of 393, added on April 12th, 2006 at 12:33 PM.

Tell me how does this poem have any thing to do with religion. I don't see
the connection....

kayla from United States
Comment 19 of 393, added on February 27th, 2006 at 8:00 PM.

does anybody else think that reading emily dickinson in school is a
complete waste of time

Jerry Garcia from Canada
Comment 18 of 393, added on February 7th, 2006 at 5:01 PM.

At first I literally thought that Ms. Dickinson about truth. But after
redaing it I see that it is partially about God and that he's probably not
real. The first thing I noticed about the poem is that she capitalized
truth every time she wrote it. I have to thank my english teacher for
making me read this.

Sango from United States
Comment 17 of 393, added on January 19th, 2006 at 3:39 PM.

I read this poem in mr. Kruclis class and i thought it was fun

Angry Bob from United States
Comment 16 of 393, added on December 1st, 2005 at 10:41 PM.

I've heard the first line of this poem quoted a lot as an explanation of
storytelling: that it is more powerful to tell a story where the "deep
truth" you are trying to tell appears out of the corner of the reader's
eye, rather than banging the reader over the head with it. In its original
context, the line is at least as much about religious truth being taught
straightforwardly vs. by example (via parables, for instance). But the
point remains the same: whether we are literally made blind by Truth
thundering down at us, or are "blinded" momentarily by blunt-nosed
moralizing, we can more easily absorb truths and allow them to change us if
we take them in sideways.

ncase from United States
Comment 15 of 393, added on December 1st, 2005 at 4:23 PM.

To say that Dickinson was not brilliant is to understand nothing of poetry.
What we have here is pure excellence, not one word too many, not one there
without reason.

Everything in this poem does make perfect sense but only - and this is the
crucial point - if interpreted correctly.

True, on the surface this poem may discuss truth and that we often try to
avoid it because it can be unpleasant.

Yet poetry is intimate. There is no understanding of great poets without
understanding their character, at least to some degree.
For Dickinson, in order to realize her brilliance, one has to become her.

Now here is my interpretation of the slant truth and I want to give you my
reasons why I believe it is the correct one and why then her carefully
chosen words do make perfect sense:

A) Dickinson was raised, kind of against her will, to believe in
Christianity. However, when old enough, she abandoned her belief
B) Note how the truth does not have a connotation of good or bad. That
opposes the notion that Dickinson is talking about truth in general. Why
should a truth that is described as "too bright for our infirm delight" be
a negative one and if it isn't negative why should we not welcome it?
Well, I believe she is talking about religious truth, God, Jesus, their
existance so to speak.

C) Her choice of words confirm my previous asumption. God and his message
are "bright", so is Jesus, his radiant image. Then there is the reference
to being blinded. Well, those of you who are familiar with the bible might
remember the healing of the blind man: "I was blind, now I can see".

What brilliant sarcasm lies hidden in Dickinson's lines: What if men would
finally see that God and Christianity was a farce? ("The Truth's superb
What if they had been blind and learned it all of the sudden? They would be
without divine guidance and like "blind man". Hence this recognition has to
occur gradually:
"The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind -- "

Like in the case of the children who learn that lightning is not caused by
an irate God up in heaven but is as a matter of fact a scientific
"As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind"

And for those who believe falsely that because Dickinson was depressive she
was unable to do what she did, I urge you to check out scientific articles
on the correlation of psychological illnesses and intellectual genius.
Einstein, my friend, was not normal. Had he been, he would have not done
what he did. Neither would have many other scientists and artists.

Huggermugger from Bahamas
Comment 14 of 393, added on November 2nd, 2005 at 12:53 PM.

This is a really good poem

Tifany Night from United States

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Information about Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 1129. Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 1887 times
Poem of the Day: Dec 17 2002

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By: Emily Dickinson

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