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 the poem by

32 Comments

  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.

  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. frumpo says:

    We can be sovereign in our choice of friends.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. Rita says:

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

  13. MEHMET KURT says:

    In this particular poem, Dickinson is commenting on how selective humans tend to be with the people and situations they associate themselves with. In the first quatrain, Dickinson makes note on how once the soul “selects her own society” (line 1), the rest of the world is shut out and the soul refuses to dance with any other groups. In the second quatrain, Dickinson writes on how even when incredible circumstances come upon one, the soul remains “unmoved” (line 7). Dickinson concludes the poem by reiterating the theme that the soul has the ability to choose whatever domain or friends they want; it’s getting the soul to allow change that’s difficult.

  14. MEHMET says:

    In this particular poem, Dickinson is commenting on how selective humans tend to be with the people and situations they associate themselves with. In the first quatrain, Dickinson makes note on how once the soul “selects her own society” (line 1), the rest of the world is shut out and the soul refuses to dance with any other groups. In the second quatrain, Dickinson writes on how even when incredible circumstances come upon one, the soul remains “unmoved” (line 7). Dickinson concludes the poem by reiterating the theme that the soul has the ability to choose whatever domain or friends they want; it’s getting the soul to allow change that’s difficult.

  15. Derin says:

    One poem that really caught my attention was poem #303. In my opinion the speaker of the poem, “ The Soul selects her own Society,” refers to a person who decides to close the door of her heart eternally to others because the person he/she truly loves (her society of one person) is gone, not longer by her side, perhaps dead. Therefore he/she wants to embrace that prior lover and let no other replace it. “Unmoved she- notes the Chariots- pausing” here the speaker perchance means that many will come at her door but none will have the privilege to enter only to stand by. The “Emperor” possibly means those waiting to have a chance for her door to unlock. But indifferent of the pain she might cause others and herself she decides to eternally “then-close the Valves of her attention Like Stone” and to continue with her life.

  16. Maggie Trees says:

    In this poem ,emily refors “King”,a person who has appeared ih some of her poems.So,why “king”is present for many times ?

  17. Richard says:

    This poem is a love poem. It is about selecting a soul mate, someone who becomes a “society of one” to the individual who does the selecting. Emily choose her society of one, and then “closed the valves (her heart) to any futher suitors. She made her heart “like stone” to any and all who came to her “low Gate” to impress her. When she found her true love, she had no room in her society for anyone else. Anyone who has ever really been in love knows this is the case of those who find the “society” of the one they choose to be enough and turns the valves of attention to stone so that no one else can be addmitted to her society. It is a beautiful love poem.

  18. Brianna says:

    Majority actually has another meaning: “the state or time of being of full legal age” (Webster). The Soul, having achieved majority, or maturity, is now able to make her own decisions, and choose her own company. “The Soul selects her own Society – Then shuts the Door[.] To her divine Majority – Present no more -“. Think of “present” as in “to offer or deliver.”

    Note the house imagery with door, low gate, mat, and also “valves”; Valves, much like “majority,” carries multiple meanings, in addition to a mechanical valve: checking the dictionary, it seems to describe pieces of shell or else “one of the leaves of a double or folding door” (Webster).

    [analysis assisted by text “Elements of Poetry” (Ch. 13, pg. 576-7), author unknown – from a course packet.]

  19. Sara Weigand says:

    This poem is how she shuts everyone out. The emporer is apart of her imagination and what she wants life to be like. The last part is that she wants to find someone and get them to love her and then turn her back on them like someone else has done to her. (close the valves of her attention=stop showing that person you love them and dont talk to them and make them hurt)

  20. Allie says:

    I like this poem. THis poem has a lot of feeling in it. This whole poem i think means have a seat at an event, what is the event.
    don’t seek an answer, let it come without pressure. soul has chosen the ONE person that it loves and has closed the door permanently to everyone else. Kinda like a first love kind of thing.i think she is almost questioning why they soul chooses just one.

    I love this poet and her points of views.

    ~~~****Allie of Illinois****~~~

  21. Ashes says:

    this is one of my favorite poems by no “snikindy lime”
    in this poem she is the dame being approached by the suitors and she does not care because her heart her soul has chosen the ONE person that it loves and has closed the door permanently to everyone else. Kinda like a first love kind of thing.i think she is almost questioning why they soul chooses just one

  22. court says:

    i think LIKE STONE could mean that her soul feels trapped, like inside the stone prison walls. she could be pursuing the idea that the soul is separate and chooses its passion.

  23. irish says:

    i had hard time on figuring out what could really have been the meaning of this poem, but upon reading the comments of the other reader i have thought that this might imply to LOVE,,
    now can you please elaborate more, i will report this in class.. 🙂

  24. senorita ann says:

    Her writings are mostly about love, every person either boy or girl must be careful in choosing a person he/she will love… it doesnt matter her/his looks or status…like what Dickinson is emphazing….

    i feel that she is getting numb that time of her life with love.._ LIKE STONE__

  25. amanda says:

    On the surface this poem does appear to be a poem of opening her heart, but I believe that it has a different meaning then this. “divine Majority” “Chariots” ect. these are all words of the heavens. The concept of faith and doubt arises in this poem. In this time it was wrong to have doubt that god really existed, but this issue had just started to arise in her time period. I think that this poem is telling about her struggle to be like everyone else but everything that people say to her and present to her so that she would believe in god has no effect. She is “Unmoved” but she also knows that she must “Choose One” or the other to believe or not. I think that she is choosing not to believe in this poem.

  26. evilpanda says:

    I find this poem to be darker and more condescending that what the comments on this board might suggest. From my perspective, the poem comes across to me as the narrator being victim of one too many broken hearts, especially with the last stanza. She has become very selective of the individuals she allows in her life. She’s “unmoved” to so many- even an emperor!

    But this is one man’s evaluation.

  27. Elise says:

    This is a well-thought out poem. Emily Dickinson is an amazing writer. The use of persona tells how the soul is feeling and that it doesn’t matter if you are in the higher society or the lower society, the soul will choose who can enter the door.

  28. old eyes says:

    comments 1-4, all have some validity.
    comment 2, CONDESCENDING-key word
    not meeting the emperor is noted, In life, when the
    king or emperor comes calling, you (we common folk) go
    out to meet him-why does emily stay in the house (it is
    not the ‘stonem not yet anyway)
    okay, more hints, the emperor is kneeling (isn’t that
    peculiar? why, would an emperor be kneeling (condescending? perhaps, what circumstance would require an emperor to bow?
    What personage would requie the Queen of England to bow?
    (same deal)
    You, the reader, have a seat at an event, what is the event.
    don’t seek an answer, let it come without pressure.

    It took me years to figure this out, after reading many
    of emily’s bio. come on, stretch that gray machine.

  29. Ellie says:

    I feel that this poem should not be taken at face value. It is clear that Dickinson has exprienced a love which even an ‘Emperor’ can not penetrate. Her ‘low gate’ is humble in his wake. However the concluding dash, ‘Like Stone-‘ hints that this may not be such an exlusive relionship, in fact the poem could begin again with ‘I’ve known her’ indicating that this happened before. The harsh capital in ‘Stone’ maybe her own feelings at being on the recieving end of rejection. The isolated ‘-shuts the Door-‘
    evokes similer feelings. Dickinson mingles rejection and exclusive love to this poem, wheather souls ‘Valves of.. attention’ are closed for ever is debatable

  30. Karianne says:

    I believe this is one of Emily Dickinson’s more emotional poems. It tells of true love either for a friend or soulmate. When choosing a friend or soulmate you have the entire world to choose from, or an ample nation, and a person doesn’t worry about their status when choosing a friend (The soul remains unmoved even while the emperor is kneeling at her gate). This is such a well written poem. It accurately describes the soul’s unaltered decision while choosing a companion in life.

  31. Raven says:

    This is one of my favorites by Emily. I like her somewhat ironic and condescending second stanza, about how her soul will not open herself to just anyone, no matter their rank. It’s true, too–no one can like everyone, and one only feels close to few.

  32. Samantha Miller says:

    this poem is a great poem that was writin by a strange dauthor with mental isues. she is inside looking at the emporer at her lower gate now wouldn’t you normaly go down and meet the emporer at the gate. that does not seem right. i am doing a paper on this poem for english class and i have alot of things to say about it that i wont
    -samantha miller

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