Study Guide

Hope is the thing with feathers Man and the Natural World

By Emily Dickinson

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Man and the Natural World

Like the Trashmen sang, the bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word. It certainly takes center stage in "'Hope' is the thing with feathers." It's so important, in fact, that the rest of the speaker's figurative language is geared toward the natural world. That makes sense to us. After all, Nature can be cold and cruel place. Anyone who's ever been sprayed by a skunk knows that. The harshness of the natural world provides a great backdrop to show off how great—and how necessary—that little hope-bird is for all humanity. Without it, we'd all be lost in a strange, hostile, and, well, stinky world.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Which natural elements seem the most hostile in this poem? Why do you think so?
  2. What is the speaker's attitude toward the natural world? What parts of the poem support your idea?
  3. Is hope also a part of the natural world? Why or why not? How would the speaker answer that question?

Chew on This

Though the poem is set in the natural world, this poem shows us that hope is an entirely human idea.

The poem shows us that, despite our fancy homes and flashy cars, we humans are really not so far removed from our days wandering through the natural world in search of food and shelter.

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