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

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Comment 5 of 385, added on December 4th, 2004 at 8:44 PM.

It is impossible to tell the entire truth while avoiding directly stating
what the truth itself is… or so one would think. But Emily Dickinson
crosses this seemingly paradoxical statement with her poem “Tell all the
Truth but tell it slant –.” From the poem’s first line, the same as the
title, she begins to draw the reader into the concept of telling the truth
in a roundabout way, and by the end of the poem, her words themselves are
convincing enough to make one believe each and every carefully-chosen
syllable. However, not only does the poem say to circuitously tell the
truth, but the poem itself follows its own preaching, and in a roundabout,
but coherent manner, reveals the truth it’s been aiming towards all along.
The first line, “tell all the Truth but tell it slant –,” essentially draws
the reader towards the subject matter (1); and with that line, Emily
Dickinson carefully declares what she wants her poem to say. However, with
the potential ambiguity of the word “slant,” for it could mean skewed,
never to reach the object, or roundabout, carefully skirting the edge until
you’ve reached the object, or something completely different to countless
other individual readers. Her first line is an exercise in itself, and is a
synecdochic example of its own truth.
Continuing with her slanted truth, Dickinson then begins to specify her
point by focusing the tactics of slanting the truth to those of “circuit,”
or simply by taking a circuitous route. She then guardedly gives a reason
for the indirect route, in that the “superb surprise” of the truth is “too
bright for our infirm Delight,” or simply that we are incapable of taking
the entire truth as a surprise (4, 3).
Then, as a way of tying everything together, she introduces the image of
lightning, and likens her own point to that of describing lightning to
children. But the likeness of the methods isn’t the most important part of
her juxtaposition, it is the idea of blindness and brightness that ties the
poem into a coherent piece. For her final, blatant statement of the truth,
the end of her slanted way of approaching it, reads thus: “The truth must
dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind –” (9-10). The blindness caused by
the instant revelation of the truth is akin to the brightness of truth’s
superb surprise, all of which are held together by the image of a bright
flash of lightning. This final revelation is analogous to the termination
of the circuitous route to truth-telling.
This comprehension achieved at the end of Dickinson’s poem proves itself,
for the simple fact that the reader reaches that conclusion without fully
understanding it, or simply dismissing it, proves the conclusion they
reached to be true. For the fact that Dickinson’s circuitous route caused
the truth that a circuitous route is necessary to truth-telling proves the
effectiveness of the circuitous route. The simple difficulty of
understanding that idea displays Emily Dickinson’s successful use of word
choice and structure, in that she encompassed her complex idea in simply
eight lines.

Alex from United States
Comment 4 of 385, added on November 23rd, 2004 at 5:59 PM.

at first i thought this poem is very weird. however, after reading several
times, i believe that this poem is talking about that truth does not always
cause delight because it is revealed. The lies that were covered by not
telling the truth can cause displeasure.People either have to be blinded by
lies, or know the truth.

joy from United States
Comment 3 of 385, added on November 4th, 2004 at 12:27 PM.

I think Dickinson is saying that the truth needs to be told gradually with
a calm, mild attitude. The poem refletcs her love life..with all the men
she loved. These men abrubtly told her that they did not love her--this
scared her. Too much truth at one time is a scary thing. In this poem,
there are many contradictions..this may come from her confusion.

Chelsie from United States
Comment 2 of 385, added on October 19th, 2004 at 11:32 AM.

When i was first asked to comment this poem i also thought that the idea
was pretty simple, i never thought i didn't think i might need other
information about the poem or the poet, but when i read a bit more
attentively i noticed a certain doze of sarcasm...i don't know, that was
how it seemed to me, perhaps she doesn't belive in people telling the
truth...be it abrupt or slant...i guess it could be interpreted as a
I'm sorry for my grammar mistakes...but i'm a foreigner

Comment 1 of 385, added on October 17th, 2004 at 9:16 PM.

What are you talking about? This is a good poem. Haven't you ever had
someone lie to you? Haven't you ever felt that you learned too much of the
truth at one time and were just overwhelmed by it? That's what the poem is
about!!! It's about telling the truth but yet picking the moment to tell
the truth and not overwhelming everyone by telling them all of it at once.
In real life, you can see how people we consider 'successful' have had to
lie at least a little to get up to the top. It's a good poem and I think
that it applies very well to the world today.


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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: 10927 times
Poem of the Day: Dec 17 2002

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