Study Guide

The Lightning is a yellow Fork Awe and Amazement

By Emily Dickinson

Awe and Amazement

From the opening line of "The Lightning is a yellow Fork," we get the feeling that the speaker is talking around something rather than talking about it. Why? Well, sometimes you're just so bowled over by something that you can't talk about it directly. The "something" here that the speaker can't quite express is not just the lightning itself, but what the lightning stands for: a sense of the great beyond. The lightning is just the tip of the iceberg, if you'll excuse our mixing of natural metaphors. The huge, dropped "fork" of its striking bolt is just a hint of what else is up there in the cosmos. Dickinson's poem uses metaphorical language because it's the only way she can talk through these awe-inspiring, mind-boggling ideas.

Questions About Awe and Amazement

  • What, in your reading, is the difference between the first stanza and the second?
  • "Awful Cutlery" is both imaginative and a little hilarious. What do you think is the purpose of this odd image? Why is the enjambment that follows it so significant?
  • How does Dickinson's use of capitalization emphasize the sense of awe summoned up by these normally everyday images (fork, tables, cutlery)?
  • <em>What</em> is revealed through this descriptive short poem? What does the lightning show us "ignorant" humans? How, in your reading, does the speaker feel about this revelation?

Chew on This

The speaker's use of metaphor in "The Lightning is a yellow Fork" takes the place of descriptive language. The speaker's inability to clearly depict the lightning in descriptive terms demonstrates her awe and incomprehension of this phenomenon.

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