Literature can be used to explain a period of time, and give insights as to how the general public felt, conveying true emotions and ideals instead of just textbook descriptions. Poem 1732 by Emily Dickinson is an excellent example of such, Dickinson was a female writer who lived in America and wrote during the mid to late 1800s, and her poem reflects the impact that both the Civil War and the War of 1812 had on people living through that era.
In the first stanza, she discusses how her life “closed” twice before its actual “close”. Her, she is referring to great loss suffered through the two wars that America was involved in after it became a country, the first being the War of 1812, and the second the Civil War. Granted, Dickinson was not alive during the War of 1812, but the event nonetheless effected her. A war devastates more than a single person for a small period of time: a war has a lasting effect. By explaining that her life “closed” twice before its actual close (her own death) she is explaining that the loss that she suffered on account of those two wars was almost as horrendous as if she herself had died.
Then, in the next few lines, Dickinson wonders if “Immortality” would unveil such a thing ever again. “Immortality” is the future, since it is ongoing-unlike her own life. The thought is slightly terrifying, and almost unthinkable that she might have to face another such series of losses.
As is common with most poems, this one has two levels at which it can be read, the literal one (which has been previously discussed) and the universal level. At the universal level, it is the country of America itself who is speaking. It had been through two devastating wars. Here, the word “close” in line one represents the fact that the country could have been destroyed. The Civil War almost tore the country in half, leaving in its wake families devastated and land ravaged. It was virtually impossible to conceive what would happen if there was another war, one worse than the last.
Then, in the last two lines of the poem, it says that, “Parting is all that we know of heaven, and all we need of hell.” This obvious religious reference is based upon several factors. First of all, war often seems like hell on earth. Secondly, many people turned to religion after the Civil War. They needed spiritual consolation and the hopes for a better future that a religious faith could provide.
This poem is representative of the time, conveying through words not the horror that was experienced in war itself, but how battle effected all those remaining at home, as well as the spirit of the country itself.
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