Emily Dickinson’s “This is my Letter to the World” functions as an epistolary preface to her body of work. The form of the letter functions as a perfect metaphor as it an eloquent means of communication. The letter is a means of communication that has a one-to-one or one-to-many correspondence.

Erika Scheurer in her essay “Near, but Remote: Emily Dickinson’s Epistolary Voice” tells us that “while Dickinson did not value writing over speech, she did value dialogic writing and speech over monologic writing and speech. “A letter is also a more durable document than a spoken statement.” Emily Dickinson being a perfect recluse was not a person of much words. This was the perfect medium to express her innermost thoughts. Dickinson appears to be in line with Bakhtin’s notion of dialogism and Derridia’s subversion of phonocentrism.

A ‘letter’ synonymous with the word ‘alphabet’ is also emblematic of education. Emily Dickinson desires to pass on the meaningful messages that Nature imparted her with to the world steeped in worldly principles. It was well beyond the times for a woman to come up with such lofty ideals. Emily Dickinson was much ahead of her times. Which is why barring two poems, her entire volume was published only after her death. The poem employs two images here- the abstract image of Nature and the concrete image of the letter.

This is my letter to the World

That never wrote to Me —

The simple News that Nature told —

With tender Majesty

Her Message is committed

To Hands I cannot see —

For love of Her — Sweet — countrymen —

Judge tenderly — of Me

The poetess states that her communication was a one-sided affair as hitherto the world did not ‘write’ to ‘Me’ the simple News that Nature told. As the world fails to comprehend and communicate the principles of Nature she endeavours to do the same. She intercedes of behalf of God who the ‘Me’ emblematizes.

In the original manuscript published in Todd and Hignison’s 1890 edition, the pointer to God is emphasized by capitalization, and is personalized by a pronoun. Though the letter is written by Dickinson the poetess, she acts as a mediator on the part of God. The world never reciprocated the ethical standards that God had endowed upon the world. If there have been attempts to do the same, it has not been with ‘tender majesty’. The phrase underlines the way the poetess wanted the mode of communication to be. It should have been with affection and care (‘tender’). It should have also abided by the decorum as echoed by the word majesty.

Her message is dedicated to “Hands I cannot see”. This definitely points to God with the capitalization of ‘Hands’. The figure of speech is metonymy as the part refers to the whole. Cameron says that “this is not necessarily a poem about a benign telling of nature’s secret”; rather; “the secret being told is ominous.” She asks her countrymen to judge her appeal tenderly. This request in particular is relevant in a world where every action is criticized, every motive analyzed.

This significant message is delivered through the crux of her poems.

© Rukhaya MK 2011

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