The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem The Soul selects her own Society


  1. Joe DiMattio says:

    The soul selects her own society … #303

    The soul (or in a more modern reference -The brain) chooses its soul- mate, friend or lover as the case may be and then closes shut the door. The choice is made and is irrevocable. Dickinson is suggesting that for her, the soul became fixed at some point in her life and remained so. From a physiological point of view, neural cells are hard wired at birth and as we live, as we experience, input causes them to form structural connections that last for an indefinite period of time Physiology did not exist as a science during her lifetime. We only learned that the brain is composed of cells in 1922 and how the individual nerve cell conducts signals in 1949 and are only now exploring what brain cells do – their individual and collective functions. Emily is suggesting that brain function becomes fixed. We now see a more complex situation. The divorce rate attests to the fact that people change their mind. Love may have some constancy, but it is also plastic.
    New connections are made or at least modified by new input. It is somewhat like a stone house; the structure, the stones remains, but the interior does get altered.

    Things change-hardly anything ever remains completely unchanged.
    From another point of view, the concept of time suggests that events, decisions get made and then become part of the past- they become history and cannot be changed. We can, however, make new decisions that counteract old decisions.

    Anyway, Emily is a bit ahead of herself or of the physiology of her time.
    Dickinson is suggesting that for her, the soul was fixed at some point in her life and remained so.

    • jerry garner (poppyttwo) says:

      yep, she’s at it again: teasing your mind for HER MEANING. No, your meaning obtained from the poem is as valid as Emily’s intent.
      She had no idea her poems would be so perplexing, mystifying…Remember, this is how she felt one night in particular-yes she was a recluse,
      felt rejected, but the fault lay within her. However, the ultimate results was the production of many titillating poems.
      Yes, the little lady from Amherst was a mess, but look at what she accomplished in spite of her many problems.

    • jerry garner (poppyttwo) says:

      Yep, right scholarly, but don’t forget the answers are often found in simplicity.
      No, Emily was not a simple person, very complex. We can interrupt most of her
      work, but not all. thus poem in a statement of self. Strange how such a person so
      cloistered with her cognitive/emotive feelings, could pour her heart out when dealing
      with her personal life.

  2. Joe DiMattio says:

    . Dickinson is suggesting that for her, the soul was fixed at some point in her life and remained so.

  3. mrttreed says:

    I believe she is expressing having different spiritual ideas than the majority of people, and she chooses to blend, conversate, associate, interact,etc. With like minded people, shutting the door on those who refuse to accept her perspective. Even though she know there may be a God watching her, the God watching is not the God of the main religion of that country, so that government is watching too. But she hold her ground. Christianity is of ample nations- pick one- but i still will follow my soul/gut/heart and remain unmoving.

  4. victoria says:

    This poem i believe it is about Emily and how she defines the meaning of her own life. her soul meaning her, as an individual, in what she thinks decides where she wants to go and how is she going to get there. Although she is describing about herself it also seems like she is reflecting among all people.

  5. A.B. says:

    I meant abstruse, as in hard to understand, not obtuse, as in not quick or alert in perception.

  6. A.B. says:

    I think her poems are obtuse. The voice in them is hard to define. I have had this problem with interpretation since I was a fifth grader trying to read her poetry. Who is being talked to is not clear. I guess that is why it is “ambiguous”. I usually read it personally, but then it is on a big American flag waving piece of html, but I guess I still see it as calculating rejection of rejectors, in the name of personal integrity. Self-selectivity?

  7. frumpo says:

    We can be sovereign in our choice of friends.

  8. Zachkoren Torres says:

    If you read Emily Dickinson’s biography you see that religion is seen in the majority of her works only because she was rejected by it. She was never able to chose a religion and thats why when she states ” Then- shuts the door- To her divine Majority” it means that she is shutting the door to religion. She was a writer in the 19th century and relgion had a huge impact in that time period. This poem is definitely not about love.

  9. Kayla says:

    this poem was not written in the 1950’s. It was written in the 1860’s. She was not even alive in the 1900’s.

  10. cooks says:

    to sherri,

    ms dickinson was also very non-religious. so ask she suggests that the “Soul” keeps herself form the “divine majority” means she excludes gods also.

    this is a very ambiguous poem; there is more than one meaning.

  11. William Boyd says:

    Titled ‘Exclusion’ in the 1890 edition cf
    (source Wikipedia note the beautiful cover and flowers) but suspect editors and not Emily. There are significant textual variation in the surviving manuscript (source Respresentative Poetry Online) and in particular the first stanza would read ‘The soul selects her own society / Then shuts the door / To her divine majority / Present no more’ which reads quite differently!

    One comment here calls it a beautiful love poem and I think that it is a love poem might well be so: it’s certainly miraculously beautiful and extraordinarily evocative in its imagery.

    I do read it as ‘Exclusion’ myself though not quite exactly that. Last verse has been suggested read as oyster (bivalve) clamming shut and on the whole agree but note also that ‘valves’ can also be the valves of the heart thus heart turned to stone supporting love poem reading. The whole point of poetry of course is you are allowed to read it as both …

    Note door/more was a half ryhme in Emily’s time.

    Enterprising students looking for a theme for a term paper might like to track down a somewhat obscure comment in Kierkegaard’s diary (?) I noted 30 years back but can’t find now. The idea is of stigma as a personal choice accepting isolation as a sacrifice to preserve quite what I can’t remember presumably self-authenticity sort thing i.e. in analogy to the botanical function of the stigma [OED 6]. Also idolatry / narcissism in the frame there I think. Good luck no need to cite but do PLEASE email me the source if you can find it!

    Love this poem. Looked at it again after long time away on reading “Arcturus” and it was just as fresh as always.

  12. kristen says:

    I like this poem its kind of diffucult too understand. An thats what i like about it, And some of you other comment posters are conceited an dumb, sorry but you sound like idiots.

  13. iknoweverything says:

    In my opinion some of you guys are really bad at interpreting. This is poem is not even about love! It is about religion, faith, and transcendenality…whatever i dont know what the word is. Think about her father and how religious he was and how he forced her to be religious.

  14. nathaniel smith says:

    this poem is very complicated. very very very very very very very very very VERY hard to understand but i still got it

  15. Rita says:

    This poem is really cool.The mary-kate and ashley movie uses this poem in Holiday in the Sun.

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