Study Guide

The Brain—is wider than the Sky— Themes

  • Wisdom and Knowledge

    "The Brain—is wider than the Sky—" is all about the human brain. Which, you know, figures. The speaker is basically saying that our ability to imagine and accumulate new knowledge is the best thing ever. Though our brains are only about the size of a small rotisserie chicken, they have the ability to dream of the infinite and to constantly accumulate new knowledge. No wonder Dickinson was so inspired.

    Questions About Wisdom and Knowledge

    1. What ability of the human mind is the speaker bragging about when she calls the brain "wider than the Sky" (1)?
    2. How does the statement that "The Brain is deeper than the Sea" (5) differ from the "wider than the Sky" (1) claim? What different ability of the human brain might the speaker be referencing?
    3. When the speaker theorizes that the human mind and God might only differ "As Syllable from Sound" (12), what could she mean?

    Chew on This

    The poem celebrates the ability of the human mind both to absorb information and imagine new things.

    The speaker of the poem seems blind to fact that there might be things outside of our realm of comprehension.

  • Man and the Natural World

    Nature is a major theme in many of Dickinson's poems, and "The Brain—is wider than the Sky—" is no exception. We get references to the wide-open sky, the deep blue sea, and God, who the speaker seems to consider nature itself. The interesting thing with this poem, though, is that the speaker thinks that man is cooler than all this nature stuff.

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. How does the speaker use images from nature to explain the powers of the human brain?
    2. How would you describe the speaker's take on humanity's relationship with nature? 
    3. What would you say is the speaker's idea of how nature relates to God? Explain your answer.

    Chew on This

    The speaker of the poem places the power of humanity's intellect above the power of nature, which is straight-up ridiculous.

    Ultimately, the speaker says that our brains give us the power to be at one with God, which the speaker considers to be the raw power of nature itself.

  • Spirituality

    Though it's widely known that Emily Dickinson didn't exactly jive with the Christian powers-that-be of her day, it's also known that she considered herself a spiritual person. In poem after poem, we find spiritual themes. Sometimes they seem like angry rebellions against the religious status quo, but there's a lot of mellower soul searching involved as well. Though "The Brain—is wider than the Sky—"
 has some ideas that might set off alarm bells for some religious people, there's a definite spiritual feeling about the poem as the speaker tries to reconcile all the stuff inside her brain with the infinite universe around her.

    Questions About Spirituality

    1. How do the themes of nature relate to the themes of spirituality in the poem?
    2. How would you describe the speaker's relationship with God? What makes you say so?
    3. Compare and contrast the spirituality of the speaker of this poem with the speaker of another poem by Emily Dickinson, such as the one from "My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –" or "There's a certain Slant of light."

    Chew on This

    The speaker has a contentious relationship with God and values the human intellect over spirituality.

    The speaker expresses the belief that the human intellect is itself divine and is the very thing that connects us with the spiritual world.