Final Draft - Roshni Sheth Mrs Sharon Powell AP English...

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Roshni Sheth Mrs. Sharon Powell AP English Literature 12 May 2009 Emily Dickinson and the “Madness” of the Times In her poem “Much Madness is divinest Sense,” number 435, Emily Dickinson discusses society’s definitions of “Madness” and “Sense.” After examining her manipulation of word use, capitalization, and syntax, along with relating the poem’s meaning to Dickinson’s own life experiences, this poem reveals Dickinson’s own negative opinions on societal pressure and the affects of succumbing to the “Majority.” On a superficial level, Dickinson criticizes the majority’s views on madness and pointing out the consequences of disagreeing with those views. Dickinson’s use of capitalization in unconventional ways proves to be most revealing techniques to portray deeper meanings in her works. By capitalizing words that would normally not be capitalized, Dickinson draws attention to these words and visually puts emphasize on them. In a way, Dickinson puts so much importance into these words that she personifies them, making them “move from the category of ‘what’ into the category of ‘who’” (Kattelman). For example, the word “Eye” in the second line can translate into the pronoun “I,” making Dickinson herself the “discerning Eye.” She uses this to show that “she is able to ‘discern’ the ‘Madness’ both with her physical eyes and with her person” (MacDonald). She criticizes society’s absolute faith in conformity and sanity; where in reality, the definition of sanity does not exist and cannot be easily defined. In the preceding line,
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Sheth 2 “Much Madness is divinest Sense—,” Dickinson’s use of the word “divinest” suggests that those seen as mad by society may be seen in a different, even better, light by the divine and that they are “connected with the divine on some level” (MacDonald). The capitalization of “Sense” emphasizes this divine light as those with “Much Madness” are those with the most “Sense” because they have the “Sense” to go against the “Majority” and not be a conformist. Dickinson continues to capitalize the words “Madness” and “Sense” at any place that they appear throughout the entire poem. This serves to call attention to the fact that these two words have questionable definitions: one being her own, that of “a discerning Eye,” or “I,” and the other being that of the “Majority.” Dickinson has no shame in exclaiming that her opinion differs from that of the “Majority” and that those who speak out against the “Majority, “as she does, are not
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Final Draft - Roshni Sheth Mrs Sharon Powell AP English...

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