Study Guide

I like to see it lap the Miles Transformation

By Emily Dickinson


At first glance, you might not think this poem has much to do with transformation. (No, the train in the poem is not a Transformer. Sorry to disappoint.) But if you dig a little deeper, you'll see how Dickinson's simple poem about a train can be read as a poem about social, technological, and geographic transformation.

The train takes us on a trip through nature into the urban shantytowns that were springing up in cities all over America. We get a front row seat to see some of the changes and transformations that are taking place in America's landscape.

Plus, the train itself was a pretty new invention, and its arrival marks an important time of transformation in society. Once people could travel great distances in relatively little time, the modernization and development of America really set into high gear.

Questions About Transformation

  1. What imagery in the poem suggests the idea of transformation? What kinds of transformations does the poem allude to?
  2. What's the speaker's attitude toward the transformations that are touched on in the poem?
  3. How does the train itself embody the idea of technological transformation?
  4. How does the speaker of the poem "transform" the train from an inanimate object to an animate being? Why do you think she does this?

Chew on This

The train in the poem is an embodiment of transformation.

The train in the poem is an embodiment of continuity.

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