Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit — Life!

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem Surgeons must be very careful


  1. Tadapocus says:

    One of the keys to understanding this poem is asking WHY surgeons “take the knife”. The answer is that they are trying to cure an illness, to remove or repair some element which is causing pain, illness, or debilitation. Yet Dickinson points out the irony that the “culprit” which is causing the malady is, in fact, a part of life itself. “The surgeon must be very careful” not to be too aggressive in his efforts to fix the problem, lest he kill the patient. By extension, we arrive at the universal truth that, while it is fine to try to remove problems from our lives, we must realize that life is not perfect and that struggle and adversity are an integral part of it. Life itself is, therefore, the “culprit” and we must learn to accept it’s impediments.

  2. frumpo says:

    Sharp critics can kill shy poets (under a great critique of Western medicine).

  3. Joseph says:

    I think she’s talking here about how poets (and writers in general) are baring their soul in their writing so people should not be too harsh in criticism because under their “incisions” is the “life” of the writer.

  4. jerry garner says:

    This is the best depiction of Miss E’s ability to
    compress a complete thought into a quatrain.
    Reader’s are trained to read seeking a beginning, middle and end.
    Miss E’s brain-to-brain quatrains could not have
    retained there power had she accepted the critical
    comments of Higginson, Hunt or Sue… Her ability was developed in her isolation, a total refusal (inability ?) to alter or edit one word, unless the idea orginated from the writer and none other.

    (Going back to the time of their creation, we cannot
    define E’s as an author, author is defined as one who has published.) E’ was a writter, the lack of publication in her lifetime preserved her attraction.

    (I am reluctant to state E’ had unique properties;
    Hardy, had some of the attributes of E’, but his is a
    much darker poetry.
    Other poets, on occasion, touch on this brain-to-brain
    communication, but rarely. E’ attempted it consistently, and was often successful.
    I am attempting to withhold my own interpretation
    on how she was able to achieve this plateau consistently; however, The key is isolation, and each
    reader, according to his interest, must either ignore
    this ,almost, unique communication or arrive at his own

    Her works (thanks to Johnson, T.) are as she wrote them, good, bad, indifferent or great, and as she intended them to be read.

    Today, we retian her brain-to-brain communiques, her
    ‘pure thought,’ poems.
    I have read E’ for a number of years, and am still
    subject to an: Icy intrusion within my brain, that smoothers all analysis, carried alone by her thoughts,
    thinking i am able to see and feel the thoughts as they develope.
    E’ only had a pen to link these portals, but the words
    are beyound the description of the pen.
    The reader is observing the creation of a thought,having access into E’s cognitive formations:
    The words are all that remains, but the thoughts are
    This is the reason previous generations, and the readers today report:
    “I feel like she is talking directly to me.”

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