Study Guide

From Blank to Blank Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Emily Dickinson

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Life, Consciousness, and Existence

We have a feeling that Emily Dickinson would've really gotten along with famous Existentialists like Jean-Paul Sartre. Though they missed being on Earth at the same time by a few years, they might've had an interesting conversation about this particular poem. In "From Blank to Blank—" the speaker is surrounded by nothingness and is struggling to find anything to latch onto. This is the very sort of thing Sartre talks about when he says that we're all "condemned to be free." If everything around us has no meaning, then we're the ones in charge of creating our own meaning. We wonder what the speaker would think if Sartre popped out of the void and gave her this advice.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. What do you think the speaker would say was the meaning of life? What parts of the poem give you your answer?
  2. According to the speaker, what is the essential problem with her existence?
  3. How do all these images of nothingness connect with the speaker's view of life?

Chew on This

The speaker thinks life is totally meaningless, so there's no point in doing anything at all. Life's just one big "Meh."

Though the speaker feels helpless, she still struggles to find meaning in the seemingly meaningless world around her.

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