There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons —
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes —

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are —

None may teach it — Any —
‘Tis the Seal Despair —
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air —

When it comes, the Landscape listens —
Shadows — hold their breath —
When it goes, ’tis like the Distance
On the look of Death —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem There’s a certain Slant of light,


  1. lauren says:

    When you analyze a poem you can’t think about what you want the poem to mean. The entire poem is describing this slant of light. It oppresses and hurts us. The poem is not about hope at all. It is about sadness, an affliction.

  2. Lauren says:

    Ola B is right the slant of light is referring to depression or sadness not hope. The light “hurts” and causes “internal difference”. Dickenson also infers that it is from God by saying it is an “imperial affliction sent us of the air”, and calling it “heavenly hurt”.

  3. tutu says:

    i feel its a sensational poem that came from the heart of the poet.although the poet drifts into a depth of sadness, she is still full of hope..its very inspiring. also the distancing between a person and death reduces and we merges within.

  4. Sarah Reese says:

    In the poem “There’s a certain Slant of light”, Emily Dickinson shows her powerfulness in a poem about hope in one’s life. Dickinson uses the metaphor of ‘Light on winter afternoons’ to show how in the cold depths of winter, there are still the hopes of spring. Just as Emily Dickinson must have some deep personal hope within herself at trying times. This poem leaves me with the impression that Dickinson is, on the surface a very negative person, yet her problems reach deep inside. Dickinson seems to find a little bit of hope in the simplest of forms. Emily Dickinson also seems to be very interested th the thought of death, she needs to find it within herself to accept the truth of death that everybody must face.

  5. Anna says:

    It’s ironic that she would associate oppression with “Cathedral Tunes”. She portrays religious images in a negative light (no pun intended). It’s not just hurt, it’s “Heavenly Hurt”. Diction? I think so.
    Unlike some of you have said, the last stanza, I do not believe she is talking about death. The “it” is still about the “Slant of light”
    Now if you think the light is death, substitude death for “it”. It would read:
    “When death goes, ’tis like the Distance
    On the look of Death-”
    It makes no sense.
    Others have also said that the light signifies hope. I don’t believe that either. It would be very strange to descrive hope as oppressive.

  6. Mark Kimata says:

    In her life Dickinson explains metaphorically that like seasons come and go, there are times when our lives are at joy, or sadness. Depending on how we cope with these indifferences, is how far the light slants. Meaning that however deep the problem is, the more depressed we get about the situation. Once the problem is fixed though, you get a perfectly straight, well light ray of light. This represents hope for us all.

  7. Ola B. says:

    When I first read this poem, it didn’t really click until I read the other postings and then re-read the poem. Only then did I fully grasp what Dickinson was trying to represent. The poem explains how depression affects the human. The slant of light is the depression. The “Cathedral Tunes” are the actual weight the person feels from the depression. But all of this is given to us by God, as shown in the line, “Sent us of the Air–“. Also in the line, “None may teach it…” the reader observes that only God can give us this type of pain and no one else will be able to understand it. This kind of pain leaves an “emotional scar” or an “internal difference”, only one we can see. This actually improves us as a person and helps us deal with more painful experiences.

  8. Audrey F. says:

    Dickinson expresses her perception of what pain is like and goes in deeper by saying that “none may teach it.” This means that depression is unexplainable but is just sent from above. Dickinson refers to life depression or sadness as a “certain slant of light” that weighs heavily on the mind and compares that with “Cathedral tunes.” Other words in the poem also refer to something in the heavens, as she mentions “Heavenly Hurt” and “sent us of the Air.” Depression and sadness are just obstacles everyone must deal within life and unfortunately, they are totally unavoidable. The poem definitely makes me reminisce over times when I have felt “despair,” and “a certain slant of light.”

  9. Katherine Rattanawan says:

    Confusing at first, Emily Dickenson’s “There’s a certain Slant of Light” seems like a poem of depression then recovery. The bleak winter symbolizes the painful trials in which each person must endure and the slant of light sumbolizes the hope in us all.

  10. Alana says:

    The poem “There’s A Certain Slant of Light” by Emily Dickinson is about hope. The light represents the optimism that she has that she can get through any kind of darkness. That hope is expressed in the lines:
    Heavenly Hurt, it gives us
    We can find no scar,
    But internal difference,
    Where the Meanings, are.
    Words she uses, such as Shadows, Despair, and Death, give me the feeling that Ms. Dickinson has experienced some hardships in her life that she has come through with the help of the “light”. Emily Dickinson’s poem is very inspirational. It gives hope to people who have maybe seen some of the things in their lives that she has seen. It lets people know that there is a way through it all.

  11. Amanda says:

    This poem is about the sliver of hope that there is in every situation. No matter how bad things may be at the time, there is always that one little sparkle of light. While reading this poem, it made me reflect on the hard times I have been through and how things always turned out right. The word “scar” in the poem had the most impact. Scars all have stories and when there new, they hurt, but over time they heal and it makes you a little tougher.

  12. Shayla says:

    When I first read the poem “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” I really did not understand it. I had to read it over and over again to get the full understanding of the poem. In this poem, Emily Dickinson is describing a certain light. This light is the light that reaches out to us and takes us from this cold world once we die. Our cold world is represented by the winter afternoons, “There’s a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons–“. In the poem Dickinson describes how Heaven is a beautiful place but it is also a hurtful place because we have to lose our loved ones to it; “Heavenly Hurt, it gives us —
    We can find no scar”. This poem is one of Emily Dickinson’s best. It grabs your attention and makes you think about death differently. The “Shadows — hold their breath –” because they will not be shadows anymore once we die but we all have to leave our winter afternoon sometime.

  13. nikki cantrell says:

    To me, this poem is a look inside to depression. In Dickenson’s day there was very little facts known about the mental illness of depression, but its affects are thusly noted. The cause of the speaker’s sadness and pain, i believe, was the death of someone very dear to them. Such a loss can result in feelings of resentment and sorrow at things that were once normal and pleasent to them, because the one they lost will never be with them to enjoy those things again. “Winter Afternoons- That oppresses, like the Heft Of Cathedral Tunes-” the light of a winter afternoon is normally a welcomed break from the consant bleakness of the season, but the depressed individual doesn’t see it that way. To them the light mocks them and delivers their “Heavenly Hurt” that leaves no evident “scar” but internally, emotionally, the scars grow in number.

  14. Hai says:

    In this poem, Dickinson is depresses due to a “Slant of light” in “winter afternoon”. She feels said because it it “oppresses” her, and internally hurting her that why she “find no scar”. Also, the dictions that she uses makes it more unbearable for which she deeply in pain.

  15. Lakiva S. says:

    Dickinson expresses that even though people may endure hardships and go through troublesome times, there will always be a guiding light in the end. This certain oppression results with no physical hurt or harm, but it creates depression. It also sends a secluded feeling as its presence is recognized. ” When it comes, the Landscape listens- Shadows-hold their breath- When it goes, ’tis like the Distance On the look of Death-.” When its presence is noticed, no action is made because it will soon pass, to spread sadness somewhere else. This poem represents the times in our life, where it seems like all hope is lost, but it will not last forever.

  16. Yaw A. says:

    Originally, I assumed this poem was about a depressing feeling a few people get during the bleak winter months. Unsurprisingly, my initial idea was horribly off-mark. What this short poem is actually about is depression. To fully convey this theme, Dickinson used winter imagery. An example of such imagery would be the line “There’s a certain Slant of light, Winter Afternoons”. Because of my lack of a soul, I did not have any meaningful emotional reaction to the poem.

  17. Amber C. says:

    This poem was very confusing at first. Each word was getting me no where near comprehending the poem. After I read some of the comments posted it hit me and I realized that the “slant of light” is hope. I think everyone fears death but the only thing that reassures them is hope. Its like a dark room with a window cracked letting in hope. Dickinson says “None may teach it-any” meaning hope is not taught but learned throughout living.

  18. Sammy Brown says:

    Emily Dickenson’s poem “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” is composed of intense emotional words in her attempt to express the torrent of feelings within her own mind. Ms. Dickinson was trying to shed some “light” on the unknown illness where “we can find no scar, but internal difference.” “Theres a Certain Slant of Light” inspired feelings of sympathy and sorrow within myself for the confusion that Emily was feeling. In our present time there is hardly an illness, mental or physical, that cannot be diagnosed and treated with some sort of medication. Yet Emily Dickenson speaks of “An imperial affliction” that had no name or treatment.

  19. Jacquie says:

    I think the “Certain Slant of Light” is hope. Hope that one day we may see or know something more of death than pain and loss of loved ones. I think Dickinson belives that maybe one day we will lose someone and feel no pain and have no scar whether it is visual or internal. I disagree with this thought. I think that pain is a part of life and that the hope of death without pain is lost along with the one who died.

  20. Kayla Evelyn says:

    I believe that the theme of Dickinson’s poem “There’s a cetain Slant of Light,” is unexplainable depressing feelings. Except in this poem she is making an attempt to bring a certain “Light” on the matter. This poem seems so intense especially in her wording “An imperial affliction…”. It makes me think if what she was writing was what she was feeling herself. Was this her secret “Seal of Despair”? If not herself than she was being so strongly impacted by someone she loved who must have been dealing with these emotions, and Emily just put them into phenominal words.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Do you have any comments, criticism, paraphrasis or analysis of this poem that you feel would assist other visitors in understanding the meaning or the theme of this poem by Emily Dickinson better? If accepted, your analysis will be added to this page of American Poems. Together we can build a wealth of information, but it will take some discipline and determination.