Study Guide

Apparently with no surprise Introduction

By Emily Dickinson

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Apparently with no surprise Introduction

Let's see… What do most people know about Emily Dickinson?

  • She never married… true. 
  • She lived alone in her house in Amherst, Mass… true. 
  • She mostly wore white… true. 
  • She was an expert in judo and secretly fought crime… unconfirmed. 
  • She wrote around 1775 of the greatest American poems ever… totally and completely true.

While the people in her hood probably thought she was just that weird spinster down the block, Emily was actually quietly accumulating a massive body of awesome work. Along with other greats like Walt Whitman, Emily is widely thought of as being one of the first poets to have a truly American voice. Not only did she rebel in her personal life by never getting married and making babies, she also rebelled on the page. She said, "What's up with all these Old World meters and rhyme schemes? Let's shake it up and have some real fun."

With "Apparently with no surprise" Emily picks up one of her favorite themes: death. Yeah, kind of dark, but some biographers say that she had particularly good reason to be writing about the D-word when she wrote this poem. Some say that this one popped out of her brilliant mind in the 1880's not long after she'd gone through a string of deaths in her life.

There was her mom, her dad, her cute little nephew, several close friends, and Otis Phillips Lord (the closest thing to a BF she ever had). Yup, seems like she had good reason to dwell on death a bit. In fact, this poem was written not long before her own death in 1886. Ooh, spooky.

Emily lives on, though. Her first big collection, Poems, was published in 1890, and it included "Apparently with no surprise." So you could say that her thoughts on death were so profound that in some ways they helped her overcome it and made her a poet of the distinctly immortal variety.

Take that, mortality. Nobody's gonna keep Em down.

What is Apparently with no surprise About and Why Should I Care?


It's just not a fun word. We kind of don't even want to look at it.

Oh, but we can't help ourselves. Call us morbidly curious, but here it comes again…


We feel a little better about it this time. Which is a good thing because there's no person on this Earth who'll never have to deal with the D-word (unless you've figured out the secret, Shmooper). Our goldfish, our grandmas, our parents, our friends—sooner or later they're all gonna die. Then, of course, comes the biggest joke of all: we're gonna die, too. Hurray?

Now, some people think it's a good idea to pretend like none of this is true. They'd just as soon skip through life popping bubble gum while doing their best to ignore the fact the death is all around them. These types would not get along with Emily Dickinson. We wonder what would happen if one of these death-deniers skipped into Dickinson's house, and Emily decided to do a reading a little reading of "Apparently with no surprise." (Not that Emily would ever have read a poem aloud to anybody, but go with us here.)

We imagine that the conversation after the reading between Emily and the skipping death-denier (hereafter referred to as Skipper) would go like this...

Skipper: Um, that was weird.

Emily: What could be weird about it?

Skipper: It was just sad and stuff.

Emily: Why shouldn't we think about sad things?

Skipper: Because they're sad.

Emily: Death is a part of life. Isn't it cowardly to pretend like it's not?

Skipper (skipping out the door): Now I see why you live alone!

Emily: (calling after her): But I made gingerbread!

Man, that Skipper is kind of rude. Anyway, isn't Emily right on this one? Why should we care about a poem about death? Because it's a part of all our lives. Simple as that.

Apparently with no surprise Resources


Neurotic Poets
Who you callin' neurotic? Yo, geniuses always have their quirks. Anyway, despite its unfortunate title, this site has some good info on Emily.

Bio Time
Short and to the point—click here for all your biography needs.

Dickinson Electronic Archive
Letters by Emily, writings by family members, and articles by professor-types. What else could you ask for?

Join the Emily Dickinson group on Facebook... you'll never regret it.


English Guy in Texas
This Texan has a few things to say about "Apparently with no surprise."


A Sense of Humor
The New Yorker + Ms. Dickinson + sound effects = ? Yeah, we're not sure about this one either.

Out Loud
An actress rocks out Dickinson's poems and letters.


Dickinson Pic
New(ly-discovered), old picture of Dickinson. Scroll down to see the image.


The Emily Dickinson Journal
You'll need a library or university account to log into this, but it'll give you all the latest in Dickinson scholarship.

Emily Dickinson: Selected Letters
Is it nosey to read somebody's letters after they die? Maybe, but it's fun...

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