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

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Comment 16 of 386, 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 386, 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 386, added on November 2nd, 2005 at 12:53 PM.

This is a really good poem

Tifany Night from United States
Comment 13 of 386, added on September 8th, 2005 at 5:44 PM.

Never be 100% forthcoming with the truth, always vere around it. Why? b/c
the truth is often something that takes us by suprise, that we are
unprepared for and often not willing to deal with. Like a parent who
rather tell a child that the angels are bowling in heaven rather than
explain what lightning really is, b/c it neither comforts nor consoles a
scared child during a thunderstorm, instead offer a kind explanation that
will put their mind at ease. Unfortuantely the truth often times has to be
appealing enough to actually be told, it has to "dazzle" in order to be
acceptable. Even still, what kind of truth is that? Or every man be
blind...so she says. I have to wonder if Ms. Dickinson isn't revealing to
us the truth in her own round about way.

Comment 12 of 386, added on April 15th, 2005 at 9:34 AM.

Everyone wants to know everything and all the truths. But not everyone can
handle all truth. Sometimes it's best to not know than to know anything.

Yasmine Raslan from United States
Comment 11 of 386, added on March 28th, 2005 at 3:59 PM.

Emily Dickinson was definately not briliant. She spent her life in
seclusion merely writing about her estranged life. Just because she is
cryptic(Who wouldn't be living in seclusion?) doesn't mean she is
brilliant. Her poems often speak of death and other morbid thoughts. SHe
obviously was tangled up in waves of manic depression. If Emily Dickinson
is considered brilliant, our society has truly decayed to unsafe levels.

Mr. X from Brunei Darussalam, Negara
Comment 10 of 386, added on March 17th, 2005 at 9:37 AM.

I think her poetry is brillant!! She is one in a million her poems are
always baaised upon Truth in some shape or form.

Shelly from United States
Comment 9 of 386, added on March 15th, 2005 at 10:23 AM.

After reading all the other comments, I'm afraid that mine will seem a bit,
well, pedestrian. I've discovered that this poem can easily be converted
into an Irish country song. There, I've said it.

Eric from United States
Comment 8 of 386, added on February 27th, 2005 at 7:40 PM.

The first thing I thought of after reading this poem was Plato's "The
Allegory of the Cave," in which he describes ignorant people as living in a
dark cave, and the process of coming out to the sunlight is a gradual one.
For Plato, those able to look at the sun were the philosopher kings. Both
Plato (Socrates) and Dickinson recognize the necessary time it takes to
come to a full understanding of the truth. I wonder if Dickenson was
directly referring to the "Allegory of the Cave." The line "The truth must
dazzle gradually/ Or every man be blind" seems so similar to Plato.

Anna from United States
Comment 7 of 386, added on January 31st, 2005 at 9:58 AM.

Emily Dickenson, though very much anti-social had a great understanding of
human behavior and way of life. Her poem “1129” has an odd and informal
tone, almost like a pastor preaching his Sunday morning sermon. The
central theme “truth” can be viewed as the existence of genuine deeds. I
think to Emily there were none. The first line means to attempt to tell
all the truth but as a steady progression. Telling the truth in kinds of
increments allows people to learn from experience and slowly achieve
knowledge needed to be efficient and successful in life. Personally, I
think this applies to child development, the forming of friendships, and
the interaction with professional relationships.
As a child, parents try to protect their child’s innocence for as long as
possible. However, growing into adolescence is a long process that allows
things to set and settle in a child’s mind. Take for instance death and
sex; parents always try to sugar coat issues that they think a child
wouldn’t comprehend. The child’s curiosity often catches their parents off
guard and is just introduced to the subject matter. When dealing with
death, parents frequently use that their Grammy and Pappy are sleeping, or
the use the phase of a “long vacation.” When it comes to sex, parents
often use the story of the stork; how it brought children from a factory in
heaven and dropped the kids off at the doorstep. As Dickenson wrote, “The
truth’s superb surprise…As Lighting to the Children eased.”
Next, Friendships are based on trust, honesty and dependability. Healthy
friendships allow people to reach a comfort level and gain confidence in
themselves. But there is a stage that people go through during elementary
school up to high school and even sometimes for the rest of there life.
They tend to befriend people for either an authentic friendship or their
own personal benefits. It’s very rare that people don’t have an alterative
motive. An important aspect in growing up is how we deal with intimacy.
Intimacy has a myriad of emotions. Often time people use cause and effect
to make someone feel significant; it raises their level of self esteem.
But, living a life in disguise, living untrue to yourself just to fulfill a
social status or simply fit in doesn’t allow you to live a gratifying life.

CJ 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: 222 times
Poem of the Day: Dec 17 2002

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