Study Guide

We Grow Accustomed to the Dark Introduction

By Emily Dickinson

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We Grow Accustomed to the Dark Introduction

Think fast: What image comes to mind when you picture a poet in your head? Chances are, you imagine someone sitting alone in an attic, scribbling rhymes about love while longingly staring out of a window. Poets are rarely seen as rock stars or social butterflies, and we might be able to blame some of that on popular perception of Emily Dickinson, one of America’s most famous poets of all time.

Known as the hermit poet or the “lady in white,” Dickinson had a reputation for spending most of her time in an attic, writing and avoiding the outside world. Knowing that, you might think her poetry was all dull verse about sunsets and sewing (or, like, cats). But when you dig into any of the nearly 2,000 poems she wrote during her lifetime, you’ll see that there’s something much more bizarre and complex going on. Dickinson tackled some of the darkest parts of life and human nature, and she did so in a style that was all her own.

“We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” is a poem about the scarier aspects of life, like facing the future with little idea of how to proceed, or walking into the night with no light to guide us. For someone who rarely mingled with with the outside world, she sure managed to pick a topic we can all relate to… even if we aren’t literally afraid of the dark (though, Shmoop aint’ judging).

What is We Grow Accustomed to the Dark About and Why Should I Care?


Did we scare you? No?

Consider what you do find scary. College applications? Finding a job? Losing your cell phone?

No matter our specific fears, we can all agree that the future is pretty darn freaky most of the time. Whether you are facing big decisions about college, jobs, or just what to get for lunch, life has a way of not slowing down. The future is going to come, whether we like it or not.


The 1800s may have been a long time ago, but Dickinson faced the same challenges; they’re universal. “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark” is a poem about encountering the great unknown and how sometimes it can feel pretty scary. It’s a poem about how sometimes it feels like we are stuck in the woods at night with no flashlight to guide the way.

No need to hide under the covers, though; our poet has some pretty solid advice about how to move forward and face life’s uncertainties, even when life seems its darkest. Wanna hear it? Read on.

We Grow Accustomed to the Dark Resources


The Poet
In-depth bio of the “lady in white.”

Her Work
The archives of her poems. Warning: there’s a lot.

Emily Dickinson Museum
Whether you visit physically or just virtually, there’s plenty to see.

We Really Do Grow Accustomed to the Dark
Wanna learn the science behind the metaphor?


Animated Poem
A fun animated version, created by students.

Want to visit the poet?
Take a virtual tour of her final resting place.


The Lady
The poet, in the only confirmed portrait of her as an adult.

Her Home
The Dickinson homestead, now a museum.

Articles and Interviews

The Soul Selects Her Own Society
An article about the reclusive (or should we say, selective) poet.


The Complete Poems
Here we are, in one nice (big) book.

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