Literature Study GuidesPoems Of Emily Dickinson SelectedThe Brain Is Wider Than The Sky Summary

Poems of Emily Dickinson (Selected) | Study Guide

Emily Dickinson

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The Brain—is wider than the Sky—

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Emily Dickinson's poem "The Brain—is wider than the Sky—."

Poems of Emily Dickinson (Selected) | The Brain--is wider than the Sky-- | Summary

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Summary

The three stanzas of this poem, which adhere to Dickinson's typical use of standard ballad meter, describe the brain. In the first stanza the speaker asserts the brain is wider than the sky because it can hold within it all of the seemingly limitless sky and still have room for the reader, You. In the second stanza, the speaker says the brain is deeper than the sea because it can absorb all the sea contains. In the third stanza the speaker maintains the brain's weight is just about equal to that of God, and if there is any difference it is as minuscule as the difference between "Syllable" and "Sound."

Analysis

In this poem Dickinson uses three conceits, or extended metaphors, to celebrate the power of the brain. To Dickinson, the word brain means "understanding or imagination," and as a poet she was fascinated by the power of the creative imagination. The brain can contain the sky or the sea, not literally of course, but in terms of understanding or imagination. By comparing the brain to God, she is recognizing its creative, imaginative power. Furthermore, by noting the similarity between "Syllable" and "Sound," she is acknowledging the way the brain uses language to understand and create.

The close structural parallelism of the three stanzas enhances the musical quality of the poem. The first lines begin with the same words: "The Brain is." The second lines are all closely parallel, beginning with "For" and ending with two repeated nouns joined by a preposition. Considerable repetition of structure appears in the third and fourth lines as well.

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