Study Guide

From Blank to Blank Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Emily Dickinson

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

From Blank to Blank—

A Threadless Way
 (1-2)

Let's take a step back from the speaker's personal plight and think about how the situation might apply to everybody else in the world. (We feel a little bad leaving her alone, but...)

Some modern writers and philosophers—like Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre—might nod their heads at the idea that we're all surrounded by nothingness. The speaker seems to be saying that nothing around her has any meaning at all; since no direction matters more than the other, she's totally lost. An Existentialist would know where she's coming from, but he'd also say that it's her job to create meaning in her own life, not to expect it from the world. (To which she might reply, "Like I don't know that. I'm just having a moment, okay?")

I pushed Mechanic feet—
 (3)

If we felt like it—and we do—we could read this line as a comment on the fact that all of our everyday activities don't have any bigger meaning at all. This might be particularly true in terms of whatever humdrum job we have to work to stay alive. Notice the speaker says "Mechanic feet," not "Mechanical feet." We wonder if the mention of "Mechanic" is a way to reference the profession. Even it it's not, it still gives us the idea of a machine repetitively doing the same thing over and over again for no other reason than to do it. It reminds us a lot of the ideas in Albert Camus's famous essay, "The Myth of Sisyphus." Dare to compare.

If end I gained

It ends beyond 
(6-7)

You could read these lines as getting at the idea that our lives lack definition. We think we're at the end of something, but then we see that it just keeps going and going. It could be saying that life itself is just one long, endless string of meaningless days. Well, maybe it does recognize that there's eventually an end. Could that be what the speaker means by "beyond"?

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