Study Guide

The Lightning is a yellow Fork Man and the Natural World

By Emily Dickinson

Man and the Natural World

Weirdly enough, the "natural world" in "The Lightning is a yellow Fork" is mostly communicated in terms of the opposite of nature – domesticity. Dickinson craftily describes a natural phenomenon – the lightning – in a strikingly (no pun intended) homely and almost comforting way. Her mash-up of a wild, powerful natural event and an imagined domestic setting draws a connection between the workings of the natural world and the workings of our human one. The poem also goes on to demonstrate the idea that natural elements are all part of the same vast "Apparatus" that makes up the cosmos, and that nature, like us, is subject to higher powers. 

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. How is nature portrayed in this poem? What is the relationship between the natural world and the domestic images that the speaker uses?
  2. How, in your opinion, does nature relate to the notion of a higher power that the poem sketches out?        
  3. Why do you think the poem begins with a natural image – the bolt of lightning – but immediately moves away from it?    

Chew on This

This depiction of a natural phenomenon using everyday domestic imagery implies that the world we live in is part of a bigger scheme. The comparison of a lightning bolt to a dropped fork demonstrates that even nature is under the control of a higher power.

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