Study Guide

We Grow Accustomed to the Dark Courage

By Emily Dickinson

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For a poem ostensibly about the inevitability of getting used to the darkness, courage might seem like a strange theme. But it isn’t just the darkness that we get used to that is featured in the poem, it’s the darkness that we go out and face. Dickinson calls the folks that aren’t afraid to face the unknown the “bravest.” But, as we see at the end of the poem, these brave ones are also those that might wind up facing more hardships than those that stay back. Worth it? She seems to think so.

Questions About Courage

  1. What makes the “bravest” so brave? Is it merely acceptance of the darkness, or do they have to take some course of action?
  2. What can happen to those who display courage? Does the poem seem to indicate that it’s worth it?
  3. What’s the opposite of courage, in the poem?

Chew on This

At the end of the poem, the brave walk “almost straight.” They are headed into the future, if not totally without injury.

Would we be able to find the road in the darkness without fumbling for it a little? Perhaps, but it’d take longer; we’d have to wait for our eyes to adjust.

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