Emily Dickinson – “I started Early – Took my Dog”

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The poem “I started Early – Took my Dog­ “ is a poem by Emily Dickson which by reading the title for the first time creates a intellectual image of the presence of a dog and a woman and of route an early morning. The poem depicts a picture of a woman’s encounter with nature during a everyday morning walk of her dog by the sea. Only readers who examine the poem further are able to understand that there is a deeper which means to the items she talks about in her poem. Many critics agree that the theme that stands out upon deeper analysis of the poem is the theme of sex. It is important however to focus further on the structure of the poem because it is only by doing so that the intended meaning of the speakers poem can be understood. it all begins with the disappearance of the dog in the first line of the first stanza which creates an aspect of a loose end. the presence and disappearance of the dog is significant to the theme of feminism as will be shown in this analysis.

Taking a look at the first stanza of the poem ad also the title, it can be noted that the speaker has a companion present. The first line of the poem is “I started Early — Took my Dog – “ (Laurel, p. 85). It can therefore be noted that there is a presence of a dog in the beginning of the poem and more so in the beginning of the speaker’s walk. Upon reading further, the dog completely disappear from the poem and the speaker takes another direction with her narrative. Although many readers believe that the speaker uses various things to personify the fulfillment of her sexual desires such as the sea, there is much more to the poem than just the theme of sex. The disappearance of the dog is not a minor aspect in te poem as it signifies a loose end that readers are required to ponder about.

Phelan, James and Rabinotwz argues that what most readers find significant in any poem is the beginnings and endings of the poem and the meanings created by the texts of the speaker (156). This therefore means that most readers focus on what they think the speaker expects them to decipher from the interpretation of the texts and therefore such readers miss out on other important meanings that require them to examine the literary work in deeper contexts in order to understand this meaning. An important aspect that many readers seem to ignore in this poem is the disappearance of the dog. The readers however cannot be blamed for missing this due to the complexity of the poem which the speaker creates by choosing to dwell on the scenic environment where the walk is taking place and hence the dog is made to seem irrelevant.

In fact, after noticing this loose end, what then? This is a question that many readers would ask. Considering the fact that there is barely any information about the dog and it has been only mentioned in the first line of the firs stanza, how the can the reader will the reader be able to understand and explain the importance of the dog. A further look into Dickson’s other works may very much help in this. In her letter to Thomas Wentworth, Emily describes the dog to be as large as herself (Leiter, p. 263). So the most common logic would be to assume that such a dog is required for protection. The next question that strikes me is how such a dog can just disappeared, when does it disappear and what is the significance of this disappearance?

On further examination of the poem I realize that the dog disappears immediately the speaker comes into contact with the sea which she has choose to masculinize through the use of the word “he” (Reising, p. 185). At this point I realize that the dog and its disappearance when they encounter the see helps to bring out the idea of feminism and sexual identity. The dog here signifies the need for women to protect themselves and it can be seen as a tool that provides this protection. By masculinizing the sea which seems to be aggressive, Emily is trying to show that men are the reason why women feel the need to protect themselves. The disappearance of the dog upon reaching the sea shows that these tools that women have sought for protection against men have failed tooffer this protection. This are what are referred to as loose ends because it is hard to understand why the fail to work or where they disappear to when women need protection.

Emily Dickson is an artist when it comes to using words to relay certain messages. Her work mainly focuses on feminism and even though readers may easily miss this, it is important they dig deep because the idea of feminism may be hidden under something that may not seem important. The first line of the poem for example could possess an even deeper meaning depending on the words the reader lays emphasis on. For example, if the reader emphasizes on the words started early could it be as an acknowledgement of danger that women may face by being out in the dark. Could an emphasis on the word “Took” mean that the reader is aware of the dangers women face by being out alone? All this instances can be used to show just vulnerable a woman is according to the poem.

Works Cited

Leiter, Sharon. Critical companion to Emily Dickinson : a literary reference to her life and work. New York, NY: Facts on File, 2007. Print

Laurel. Walk from the sea. Place of publication not identified: Trafford Publishing, 2014. Print.

Phelan, James, and Peter J. Rabinowitz. Understanding narrative. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1994. Print.

Reising, Russell. Loose ends : closure and crisis in the American social text. Durham, N.C: Duke University Press, 1996. Print.

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