Study Guide

Emily Dickinson Biography

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In 1881, a new arrival to the town of Amherst, Massachusetts learned of "a lady whom people call the Myth. She has not been outside of her own house in 15 years. She dresses wholly in white, and her mind is said to be perfectly wonderful. She writes finely, but no one ever sees her." By listening to her own soul, Dickinson taught us something about ours. (We're still not really sure what the all-white clothes were about, though. That was just her thing.)

Emily Dickinson didn't live as she did because she didn't have the ability to do otherwise. She did it because she wanted to. In her letters she revealed herself to be witty, intelligent, even flirtatious. Having lost many of her loved ones to untimely death, perhaps Dickinson withdrew as a way of rejecting a world so full of pain. Who knows why she chose to cut herself off from the world? Dickinson had her reasons, and she kept them to herself. As she told us in her poems, the soul selects its own society. It just so happens that her soul found completeness in itself.


Mount Holyoke & Amherst







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