Study Guide

I taste a liquor never brewed Society and Class

By Emily Dickinson

Society and Class

Dickinson was from an influential, upper middle-class family and experienced quite a bit of privilege in her life. We're not saying she was a snob or anything, but the influences of her social status come through in "I taste a liquor never brewed" whether it was intentional or not. Though the upper classes were certainly not shy about enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two at gatherings, outright drunkenness was not considered socially appropriate. Being drunk, especially in public, was a very lower-class thing to do, and Dickinson's choice of words and symbols to represent inebriation also shows this socially-influenced opinion.

Questions About Society and Class

  1. How would it change the poem if Dickinson didn't have these socially-constructed opinions of drunkenness?
  2. Has this attitude toward drinking changed since Dickinson wrote this poem? If so, how? If not, why not?
  3. What conclusions can you draw about Dickinson's own experiences with alcohol and drunkenness based on the poem?

Chew on This

"I taste a liquor never brewed" would have been a very different poem if Dickinson were an alcoholic.

Maybe Dickinson is not as uptight as we thought she was. By equating nature with alcohol, she's actually pointing out the pleasures people can get from both.

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