Emily Dickinson was a secluded American poet. Despite not having been recognized while she was alive,she was known posthumously for her imaginative usage of structure and syntax. This was all thanks to her sister, Lavania, who discovered Dickinson’s momentous work which was published after she passed away on May 15, 1886 in Amherst. As a teenager, Dickinson had been pulled out of school due to constant health problems and illnesses throughout as a child. There she lived a reclusive life,creating her secretive poetic masterpieces and writing a profuse amount of letters, and now is presently viewed as one of the transcending figures of American writing.
In the poem ‘Before I got my eye put out’, Dickinson juxtaposes a sense of pride and humility in order to express the ironic reaction of gratitude from the loss of vision. Dickinson discusses how when she had lost her vision, initially she lamented over it, but eventually came into acceptance or took it as a blessing. She specifically says,’So safer guess with just my soul'(Dickinson Line 18).
Her metaphorical appeal is important because it demonstrates how she would prefer to be left with her imagination than have her sight be restored because having lost what one might view a sense of great importance to that of a human, it allowed her to gain an understanding and connection with nature and a spiritual awakening.
However in another poem Dickison wrote called ‘We grow accustomed to the dark’ reveals a different reaction from the author by juxtaposing the light and darkness. Dickinson instead discusses how we come time when there’s light and other times when there’s more darkness than light and but in order to get through it we have to have a change of perspective. She specifically mentions,’But as they learn to see…the Darkness alters'(Dickinson, Lines 16-17).
Her reaction in ‘We grow accustomed to the dark’ in contrast to ‘Before I got my eye out out’ is of importance because in one the reader is shown how in order to be aware and see nature or something beyond from reality, to make feel connection we must cast away our sight and open our third eye, while the other reaction is that there is always light even in the darkest places in which we may not be used to but as we grow resilient on our part we adjust ourselves to the darkness and are able to see in a different perspective. In essence, she relays one message and that is for one to open their mind and upon that action their vision shall be infinite.
Dickinson is someone who lost her sight and as a result becomes aware of the luxury and risks of not seeing. She eventually tries to accept her current state of blindness which essentially one’s identity can be represented by the metaphor of sight.
There is a shift in Dickinson’s attitude towards sight as the poem progresses. In the first stanza, she says in a certain and confirming tone how she “liked as well to see”. Dickinson here displays a strong desire to see again before succumbing to blindness. However, from the second to fourth stanza, Dickinson depicts the vast and endless beautiful sceneries of nature that are simply too much for her to take between her “finite eyes”.
The overwhelming luxury of sight is simply too much for her to handle as it would “strike her dead”. As a result, Dickinson came to the conclusion that it would be “safer” to look “just with my soul”, an alternative lens that protects her from the overwhelming nature of sight. This is a completely different stance than Dickinson’s original desire to see. Yet, she appears to still have some doubt as she uses the word “guess” to come to this conclusion.
This shift symbolizes Dickinson’s realization of the alternative, “safer” way to see, upon her loss of physical sight. Her choice of using the singular form of “eye” to describe the state of total blindness is quite interesting, as the words “eye” and “I” sound very similar. This word choice reinforces this poem’s central conceit of sight as a representation of one’s identity. As stated previously, sight is also depicted as a form of luxury and as a result, is a symbol of our identity. These luxuries accompanied by sight can be a symbol of our humanly desires. The repetition of the word “mine” from the second to fourth stanza also evokes the sense of ownership over these sceneries.
The idea of possession is closely associated to human nature, or one of our seven deadly sins-greed. And these strong desires seem to have corresponding risks involved, as the speaker compares people immersed in the luxury of sight as “creatures” who are “incautious” of the Sun, which could potentially be blinding. Thus, Dickinson,being stripped of the luxury of sight, comes to the conclusion that it is probably “safer” to see through with just her soul, the only way her current state of blindness allows her to see.