Study Guide

From Blank to Blank Nothingness

By Emily Dickinson

Nothingness

The poem finds lots of creative ways of showing the big blob of nothingness in which the speaker is trapped. It's kind of a cool problem to try to solve, right? As a poet, how do you show nothing? Dickinson never tells us exactly what all this nothing is supposed to represent. Is it depression? Could it be a sense of meaninglessness or directionless-ness? What do you think?

  • Line 1: Dickinson drops us into nothingness right from the beginning. Not only does she capitalize the word "Blank," but she also repeats it twice. The repetitiveness immediately gives us a sense that the speaker is struggling to escape this void. She's moving from one pocket of emptiness to another without any luck. It's a powerful image, or should we say non-image?
  • Line 3: The image of the "Mechanic feet" is probably the most visual we get in the whole poem. We read this, and a crystal-clear picture of big old clunky feet instantly pops up in our mind. What's cool about this is that the rest of poem is so empty of specific visual imagery. It's almost like the poem is helping us look through the eyes of the speaker. There she is in a big blob of nothingness with nothing to look at but her shoes. 
  • Lines 6-8: Here again, Dickinson gives us some of what we might call non-imagery. It's an endless plain of non-endings, a realization of that everything's a mush. It's like we're being slurped up by intellectual ideas. We're trapped inside the speaker's head, and just like her all we see is nothingness. 
  • Lines 9-10: The speaker ends by telling us that things got a wee bit brighter when she closed her eyes. It's interesting that the big, dark blank that she sees when she closes her eyes is so much more preferable to the nothingness around her. What do you think makes closed-eye nothingness better than open-eye nothingness? Whatever the speaker's reasoning is, Dickinson polishes off the poem with another great non-image. Close your eyes, and see it for yourself.

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