Kakos' 6th Hour

Reactions and comments from my sixth hour Honors American Literature class.

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My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Speaking of Metaphors...

The Emily Dickinson poem below is my mother's personal mantra and my favorite Dickinson poem as well. Have a look and read the question that follows:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Please pick one of the metaphors in this poem (essentially, you can pick any line here) and explain your interpretation of it. Please also explain to what extent you agree/disagree with Dickinson's interpretation of hope. Feel free to incorporate any personal stories to back up your thoughts.

31 Comments:

Blogger ryanp said...

One metaphor that relly stood out to me in the poem was "Hope is the thing with feathers." I interpret this quote to mean that hope is like a bird in how it can come so close to you that you feel like you can touch it, yet when you reach your hand out to grab it, the bird flys away. I do agree with Dickinson's interpretation of hope because it seems like whenever you get a great amount of hope it goese away as quickly as it came.

5:20 PM  
Blogger AArensdorf said...

My favorite metaphor in this poem was "And sore must be the storm That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm". I think Dickinson is trying to say that hope exists even during times of stress and uncertanity. I know this is true because even when I am going through a hard time in my life, I can look up and glimpse that light at the end of the tunnel, the sun that peeks through stormy clouds. I have read many stories of people who have experienced great pain, but they endured because something inside them spurred them on. In this matter, I agree with Emily Dickinson. Hope is something that stays with you, even in the roughest of times.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Alexandra H said...

"Hope is the thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul,". I agree with Ryan that this metaphor is interpreting hope as a bird that flies away. I also think that it is saying that hope can come and go, just like a bird. The feathers are soft and can give you comfort. The bird perching on a branch is like hope being granted to someone who needs it; someone who is looking for it. I agree with her interpretaion because hope comes silently, just like the bird that sings without words. Also, hope comes whenever and wherever you need it (in the "chillest land...") and it leaves when it is ready.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Hannah S said...

The line that stood out to me was also "Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul." This means that hope is something that is light and fluffy and sits and waits for you to ask for it. I also agree with Ryan and Ali that hope can give you comfort. I also agree with Emily on her interpretation of hope of being something that is always there and will never leave.

5:47 PM  
Blogger Ms. Kakos said...

I'm enjoying your interpretations--they're clear, direct, and you're listening to each other well. Now that we've explored a few interpretations, feel free to liven it up a little. Can you argue the opposite of what's been suggested? Do you have a good story to back up your opinion? Dickinson can be intimidating, but you have to get right back up in her face with your own unique ideas.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Ryan S said...

My favorite metaphor without a doubt is Ryan's and Ali's which is Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, but I slightly disagree on there interpretation. I think she means to say how hard hope is to reach and how whenever you are in reach of hope it somehow finds a way to fly away like a bird. I do not really understand how she can say this because hope is available for everyone and can be achieved just through a positive attitude. With belief in yourself anything can be done and nothing is entirely out of your reach. Obviously, Emily Dickins was severely depressed and it would have been hard for her to really understand hope and success without someone there to support her.

7:18 PM  
Blogger KristinC said...

And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,
I think when Emily Dickinson wrote this poem she was referring to a person. There is always the one person who gives hope and never fails to say an encouraging word. For me its my mother, and when I read this poem I thought immediately of her. How she always comforts me and is always there wehn I need her. When she talks about the tune without words I think she means that hope is never covered by unnecessary things, it always stands alone. Which is why I think hope is so powerful. Because standing alone is much harder than standing in a group.

7:25 PM  
Blogger christineT said...

The metaphor that stood out to me was the second stanza, "and sweetest in the gale is heard; and sore must be the storm that could abash the little bird that kept so many warm." I think that what she means is that hope is a part of your soul that can never be broken. It can survive anything and it would take the perfect storm, or conflict and destruction of all faith in yourself to get rid of your hope. But hope survives everything to keep peoples faith (to keep them warm). Although I usually find Emily Dickinson's poetry rather depressing, I think that this poem is really good, and I think that it sends out a good message, of hope, rather than the almost suicide note poem we saw in class. I also like the last line of the poem that states "Yet, never, in extremity, it asked a crumb of me." I think that this part means that hope will always exist, it does not push you, but it is foundation for motivation, allowing you to push yourself when you hope for great things.

7:52 PM  
Blogger allison n said...

The line that struck me was
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
I agree with what she writes. Hope is the perfect person. It is always there for you when you need it most. No matter how many times you turn to hope, it never asks for anything in return. It cannot refuse your belief, and although it can let you down, it never abandons. Hope is bigger than the rest of us, yet completely tangible.

7:54 PM  
Blogger nicci c said...

In this poem my favorite part was when she wrote, "Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches on the soul". I think that the poet is trying to say that, as several others have mentioned, that hope is something that will come and go freely; it has no permenant landing place and will only stay as long as needed. However, I believe that hope is something that will stay with you no matter what circumstances arise. People need hope everyday and without its constant comfort, we would be lost.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Andie R said...

"And sore must be the storm/That could abash the little bird" I interpreted these two lines to mean that hope is not perfect. It can easily lead to disappointment and can even crush a person. The "storm" she speaks of is hope when it is built up and built up until the person feels that something WILL happen, and there is no longer a way for things to turn out wrong. When they do come out wrong, the hope comes crashing down around a person from the pillars that built it up. It makes the disappointment a thousand times worse when hope was allowed to build. Hence, hope can be "abashed" by the aftermath and disappointment of a negative situation.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Olivia C. said...

"And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all." I am not sure how many of you listen to Simon and Garfunkel, but it is interesting to note that they have a song that discusses not only the idea of speaking/singing without words but also the poetry of Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson (I apologize but I am blanking on the title). Such an image certainly agrees strongly with the idea of faith as both seem to sing their eternal songs without any need for words. From day to day most of our feelings are presented not through words but through either physical appearance or our facial mannerisms. The same seems to be true of hope. When one is allowing hope to perch in their soul, they seem to be conducting a song through which they are inspired, encouraged, or supported by that faith. Once an individual can supply the faith needed to inspire, that hope continues to be an eternal trait. Although its notes seem to be different for everybody, individual hope replays strongly and influentially in every heart once its abilities are rendered. We must learn to master that hope and thus allow it to play its beautiful song until it has expired.

8:42 PM  
Blogger Olivia C. said...

After reading over other's responses, I particularly agreed with Allison's remarks hope is certainly tangible. We can personally see first hand the affects it has on us whether they be positive or negative. Sometimes hope can play the role of your best friend, supplying you with the encouragement to overcome a difficult situation. However, hope can also turn on your back and lead oneself to personal despair. Having hope in things that are quite difficult to accomplish can lead to misunderstanding and anger or to sublime humility and happiness. It is all a matter of what degree we allow that hope to inspire us.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Christine D said...

I agree with ryan s. about how a bird representing hope could be interpretted as hope being a hard thing to catch and keep a hold of. I think that the next two lines about the bird singing a tune with our the words also shows this idea of hope being present but hard to keep a hold of. It is like everyone can see the hope but can not always understand what it is saying, therefore making the message of hope hard to grasp. I think Emily Dickinson would have thought this about hope, but like many others who have posted, i disagree. I think that hope is not only present all the time but can be kept a hold of, metaphorically. I think the value of hope depends on the the person on which it perches. If the person is not willing to listen to the bird, they can not hear the words it sings.

9:14 PM  
Blogger corey c said...

I find it interesting that a person who lives in one place almost her whole life and never leaves knows so much about hope. It seems as if she really doesn't have much to hope for and/or she just doesn't want to hope. It doesn't seem like she has had many times when she truly conquered fear through hope. I may be mistaken though, maybe it is quite the contrary, maybe by living in one space she must truly have hope, to be able to hope that there is more to life than fear. A line I liked was,
"I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;"
I find that the fear is the opposite of hope, fear is what drives away a feeling that there is something better out there. I agree with Dickinson's view of hope, she seems to know what it really is and I find that even in the darkest of moments when i feel uncertain a littly birdy is trying to sing. Kind of comforting actually, I really like this poem and it's changed my view of Dickinson a lot.

9:16 PM  
Blogger corey c said...

In response to Ryan P.'s comment(the end of it)


Is it hope that forgets you or is it you that forgets the hope?? I find that hope is always there, I just accidently forget about it once in a while.

9:19 PM  
Blogger Alexaaaaa said...

The line "...and sings the tune--without the words, and never stops at all," seems to describe how no human seems to know the purpose or reason of life, and yet everyone continues to press forward regardless of this, hoping to reach the answer by doing so. Going along with Dickinson's usual mode of poetry, she could be implying with these lines that life has no purpose, it just happens to be pretty.

Some of the earlier comments mentioned hope being like a willful bird. This reminded me of a childhood story in which a king becomes enamored with the song of the wild nightingale, and so decides to keep one in a cage. The caged nightingale soon sickens and dies, and the king never tries to capture one again. In this context, we grasp at hope and try to keep it forever because we can't imagine living without it, but in truth, if we overuse hope we stop coping with the world around us and narrow the focus of our lives to vacantly hoping that tomorrow will be better rather than doing something about it.

9:30 PM  
Blogger Alexaaaaa said...

In response to Cory C, I agree that Dickinson knows more about hope than one would expect. The line "I've heard it in the chillest land, and on the strangest sea" seemed out of place to me as well. How does she know what "strange seas" and "chill lands" are like when she never leaves her room? The only way I can make sense of this is as an analogy to the way society has treated her.

9:35 PM  
Blogger LindsayS said...

The first line "Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul" really stood out to me along with the last line "Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me." These two lines stood out to me because it seems that in the two poems I have read by Emily Dickinson she mentions her soul and how hope or the world never seemed to pay attention to her. I agree that the first line is like a bird, you can grab hold of it when you need it and it is always there but I think that from the last line Emily doesn't try and grab it. She sees hope perching there but she wants it to come to her and hope works the other way; you need to reach for it yourself.

9:37 PM  
Blogger A_Nielsen said...

Overall, my favorite line in the poem is, "and sings the tune--without the words, and never stops at all." I interprete this line to be that even though life throws so many tragedies and disappointments at you, you must continue to go on and "sing the tune" because hope is something you create it doesn't just appear.

We all have had tragedies throughout our lives and some have been more horrific than others but I think this poem is trying to say horrible events happen but you have a time to grieve and then you have to move on and live your life becuase you don't get anywhere living in the past and if you live in the past and can't allow yourself to move on then your letting that hope inside have you expire and all hope wants to do is help not forget.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Amy O. said...

"And sore must be the storm"
This line is open to interpretation, because it can mean any difficulty someone has experienced. I don't entirely agree with Andie's comment, which I interpreted to mean that "the storm" means one has too much hope for something that doesn't turn out in the end. The "little bird" that is hope in a storm creates a visual of how strong of character one must be to stay hopeful in times of trouble
For everyone, the storm that destroys the little bird is different. It is unique to each person because hope is a thing of the soul, as Dickinson earlier states.

9:39 PM  
Blogger Aubry P. said...

I like the way she represents hope with a bird. I agree with her interpretation where it says it sings the tune and never stops at all because there is always hope. It is abundant in the worst places because that is all the people have. Hope just keeps on giving and giving.

9:52 PM  
Blogger katie_r said...

"And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird"

I both agree and disagree with this line. There are people who have hope through whatever situation, and always believe that good is going to come out of the worst of anything. But then there are other people who have no hope, and always see the worst in a good situation. So for those people who have all the hope in the world, yea, the "storm" must be pretty horrible to bash their "bird", but for those people who have no hope, there is no "bird" to begin with.

I agree with Dickinson's interpretation of hope, and I believe that whether you have hope or not, that decision is yours and it "perches" in your soul, in the deepest part of you that nobody can get into, unless they are invited. If you have hope, it never stops "singing" because it takes a lot to change someone's beliefs that either something good will come, or nothing will ever get better. It's a bird with feathers, because it can lift you up in those tough situations when life, or people are getting you down and you don't feel so good about yourself. And the line about keeping so many warm, when you have hope, everyone can tell, and it spreads. So the ones who never had faith, suddenly believe and that makes them happy and "warm".

9:54 PM  
Blogger Michelle S said...

My favorite lines, as some others have said, are "And sings the tune--without the words,/And never stops at all". Hope seems to be undefined, working for everyone individually. The tune it sings goes on eternally, no matter the situation, which is why it requires no words. In contrast, hope also is a unifying force that everyone can tap into, and because of this it continues forever. I thought it was odd how in the second stanza Dickinson wrote "And sore must be the storm/That could abash the little bird". I disagree that there is such a "storm" that could destroy hope completely. I could, however, understand Andie's interpretation of the line, which explains how hope can be built up too much to the point where reality catches up and the hope diminishes. Hope in excessive proportions is dangerous, but having no hope is fatal.

9:56 PM  
Blogger matt l said...

The metaphor that caught my attention was the second line, "that perches in the soul,". I believe this is exactly what hope is: an intangible thing that is always present, but must be found. Hope never goes away, people simply stop being hopeful. Although I don't want to, I agree with Dickinson's interpretation. I do, however, have my own cheesy interpretation: hope never loses hope.

10:06 PM  
Blogger anam said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:13 PM  
Blogger anam said...

In the poem, I interpreted the lines, “Yet, never, in extremity,/ It asked a crumb of me” as Emily Dickinson never had hope within herself. She had heard of people having hope in the most extreme and seemingly hopeless situations, but she never had it in herself. I agree with the poem that hope never goes away; at times it might seem like a person has run out of hope, but I think that their hope has just gone into remission. Their hope has been covered up with many layers of doubt and obstacles that seem impossible to conquer, but all a person needs to bring their hope out of the depths of doubt is to get sign that anything is possible with the right attitude. Many times “hopeless” people give up before they have a chance to receive their sign of hope, that drives them to believe within themselves that any thing is possible.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Thomas_N said...

The metaphor that i find most interesting is, "Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul" I think this means that hope is a delicate thing and it must be searched for inside one's self. Relating to a bird makes it seem like at any moment hope could go away or come back and it is up to each individual to find it and use it. I disagree with Emily Dickinson's interpretation of hope. She makes it seem like it is hard to find and even harder to hold on to. I think that anyone can find hope no matter the circumstances and it can be held on to in an easier way than she interprets it.

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Thomas I found the quote, "Hope is the thing with feathers." That line really seems to define hope in the way that hope is never set in stone and things don't always go the way you hope for. Everyone has hopes and aspirations but no one achieves every single one of their goals. "Hope is the thing with feathers" because hope can either make you or break you.

7:56 PM  
Blogger brianc said...

My favorite line in the whole poem was the last part when she wrote, "yet, never, in extremity, it asked a crumb of me". This line is powerful but I still feel inclined to disagree with it. Hope may provide a lot of joy and peace to many who do not deserve it or need it, but most people still have to work to find it. There are many people who are negative and pessimists in this world, and hope is something that doesn't take the front seat in their lives. One has to work to find the silver lining and keep on reaching for it in order for it to have a significant impact in their life.

8:43 PM  
Blogger rbeckett said...

I thought the line that compared hope to a bird perched on the soul was meant to show that hope is always present within a person no matter the circumstances. I also believe that this was supposed to demonstrate that hope is a tangible thing that exists. I agree with Dickinson's comparison between a bird and hope in the way that it accurately depicts it, however I felt like it was an awkward and unnatural metaphor that wasn't the first thing that would come to one's mind when thinking about hope.

8:35 PM  

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