Study Guide

There is no Frigate like a Book Freedom and Confinement

By Emily Dickinson

Freedom and Confinement

Are you down on your luck? Running low on funds? Feeling stuck in a rut? Never fear. As long as you have a library card and an open mind, you can escape any time you want – for free. At least, that's what Emily Dickinson suggests in "There is no Frigate like a Book." This poem reminds us that reading can always provide us with a kind of escape, because, no matter how poor we are, it doesn't cost a penny to travel in your imagination. Certain phrases in this poem – "oppress of Toll," we're looking at you (line 6) – suggest that the workaday world we live can be one of limitation and exclusion, but that the world of books doesn't have the same boundaries or requirements, and the soul is free to travel wherever it likes there.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. Why do you think Dickinson brings up the economic problem of the toll road? Why do you think the speaker goes out of her way to mention that even "the poorest" reader is able to take this kind of trip?
  2. Why might the speaker use the word "oppress" in relation to tolls? Sure, tollbooths are annoying – but are they "oppressive"? What else might this be standing in for?
  3. Why do you read books? What are your thoughts on the escapist stance that this poem takes? Do you read to get away from life, or to learn more about it – or both?

Chew on This

In "There is no Frigate like a Book," Dickinson seems to think of reading purely as an escape from reality.

One could argue that the speaker is being sarcastic in her praise of reading.

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