Study Guide

Hope is the thing with feathers Suffering

By Emily Dickinson

Suffering

It's like that great philosopher once said, "There can be no Kleenex without the sneeze." Of course, his philosophy career was cut short as soon as he said it, but all the same, we think he would have liked "'Hope' is the thing with feathers." It does a great job of pointing out the yin and yang of the hope-suffering dynamic. In other words, we cannot appreciate the good if we don't also experience the bad. Luckily for this poem, there is plenty of bad to go around. And yet, all this suffering makes us appreciate hope that much more.

Questions About Suffering

  1. How does this poem represent suffering?
  2. Would you opt out of suffering if it meant not being able to appreciate hope? How do you think the speaker might answer that question?
  3. In what ways might this poem's inconsistencies of form underscore the idea of suffering?

Chew on This

As much as this poem insists that hope is a permanent part of the human condition, it also lets us know that suffering is likewise here to stay.

If hope is as powerful a force as the poem claims it is, then suffering is never really possible.

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