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Emily Dickinson poem 598

The poem seeks to convince the reader of the immense power of the human brain through the author’s realization of its vast capability.  Dickinson is known for her unconventional usage of the dash and in this poem, it was used to put emphasis on important phrases as well as create pauses to set the reader’s pace. 598 is read iambically and broken down into three stanzas of four lines with a rhyme at the end of line two and four, each stanza comparing the Brain to a different entity through use of simile. Additionally, the second line of each stanza uses the same word back to back to put emphasis on similarity.

“The Brain – is wider than the Sky-“

In the first stanza, she compares the Brain to the Sky, highlighting the Brain’s ability to “contain”. Her usage of the word “contain” plays at the paradoxical idea of “the one the other will contain” – the Sky containing the Brain yet the Brain also capable of doing the same, perhaps through the power of imagination. The last sentence of the paragraph she used “You” to refer to the reader, a strategy perhaps adopted from Walt Whitman.

“The Brain is deeper than the Sea-“

The second stanza is the emphasis on the Brain’s ability to “absorb” and its sea-like depth. Dickinson is likely referring to the Brain’s capacity for knowledge and its “Sponge” quality, always taking in more knowledge.

“The Brain is just the weight of God-“

The third stanza makes an immensely larger comparison and perhaps is on a higher philosophical level than the others. She uses the simile of “As Syllable from Sound” to describe the relationship between the Brain and God. This is open to many interpretations but how I see it is that syllables are a more structured form of sound, which might be saying the brain is capable of everything God does but with more control.

The poem overall praises human intelligence and the power of the Brain and is done creatively through Emily Dickinson’s smart use of similes and word choices.

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