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Emily Dickinson Research Project

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Essay title: Emily Dickinson Research Project

Emily Dickinson was a brilliant American poet, and an obsessively private writer. During her lifetime, only seven of her eighteen hundred poems were published. Dickinson withdrew from social contact at the age of twenty three and devoted herself to her secret poetry writing.

Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts on December 10, 1830. There she spent most of her life living in the house built in 1813 by her grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinson. His part in founding Amherst College in 1821 began the family tradition of public service continued by Dickinson’s father Edward and her brother Austin. All men in the Dickinson family were attorneys at law and the Dickinson home was a center of Amherst society and the site of annual Amherst College initiation receptions. (Crumbley par.2) Growing up in a household with such domineering men took its toll on Dickinson. She wished to be a political figure like her father and brothers, but the only thing that held her back was the fact that she was a woman. Dickinson wanted to have a life of political action and public service but that too was an impossible dream. This however was a perfect drive for her to make herself known and prepared her for her life as a poet.

Dickinson’s mother, Emily Norcross Dickinson, was not as powerful a presence in her life; she seems not to have been as emotionally accessible as Dickinson would have liked. Her daughter is said to have characterized her as not the sort of mother "to whom you hurry when you are troubled."(Myers par.1)

Dickinson studied at Amherst Academy from 1837 to 1847 and went to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary from 1847 to 1848. (Literature Network par.2) There Emily was known for her unwillingness to confess, publicly, her faith in Christ. Being referred to as a person with “no hope” of salvation, Dickinson began to feel secluded towards the other students. In 1848, Dickinson wrote to her friend Abiah Root, "I am not happy, and I regret that last term, when that golden opportunity was mine, that I did not give up and become a Christian." In 1850, Emily wrote similar feelings to her friend Jane Humphrey: "Christ is calling everyone here, all my companions have answered, even my darling Vinnie believes she loves, and trusts him, and I am standing alone in rebellion." (Crumbley par.4) Dickinson’s experience at Mount Holyoke uncovered her independence that fueled her writing and led her to cease attending church by the time she was thirty. After Dickinson’s religious awakening, she returned to Amherst in 1848. Around 1850, she began to write seriously. (Crumbley par.5)

During this time, Dickinson increasingly withdrew from public view. Dickinson, however, did appear in public for commencement receptions, after the sixties, she was rarely seen. Dickinson left the house on a rare occasion, and went to Boston to see a doctor about eye problems. She lived all her life in her father's house, staying dressed only in white. During the last twenty years of her life she rarely left the house. (Myers par.3) Despite her withdrawal from the public eye, Dickinson kept in touch with a wide community of friends and acquaintances, including such well-known literary figures as Helen Hunt Jackson. The 1,150 letters in The Letters

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