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Hope Is the Thing with Feathers Essay

In Emily Dickenson’s poem, Hope, she uses poetic device’s to describe hope as being like a bird. Birds are usually symbolized as being courageous and having a free soul to roam the skies. Therefore to compare hope to being like a bird was a wise choice for Dickenson because those who choose to be hopeful will have a necessity to have courage deep within them. Dickenson begins her poem with this vague statement that “Hope is the thing with feathers” (line 1). She refers to feathers as being like the feathers of a bird. As she continues on the second line, she states that the bird “perches in the soul” (line 2).

This could best be explained that just as a bird rests upon a perch, hope can as well rest or perch deep in the soul. Dickenson uses imagery of the bird to show how hope can be perceived by the naked eye. In lines three through four, the bird “sings the tune-without the words/ and never stops at all” (line 3-4). These lines explain that even though the human eye may not be able to see hope in a physical aspect, they can sure believe that it is there and that feeling hope is indeed possible. One can never stop hoping and never the less, living a life without hope would inevitably be difficult.

Dickenson metaphorically describes what it would be like if a person were to annihilate hope from their lives. Beginning with lines five through eight she states “And sweetest in the gale is heard/ and sore must be the storm/ that could abash the little bird/ that kept so many warm” (lines 5-8). The reasoning behind this statement is that the one who demolishes hope will never feel it and will continue to have feelings of negativity and sorrow. In comparison to this, the bird in the storm is just like the one with no hope and constant negativity.

The storm would be considered the negativity and the bird would be considered the people who are brought down by these negative actions. These actions can cause the little bird to be abashed. In other words, it may bring sorrow to the people around. Dickenson uses a metaphor of the bird when she states that “[It] kept so many warm” (line 8). Physically it would be impossible for “hope” to keep anything warm; however, mentally making one feel warm is possible. Hope is a free quality to have that never asks of anything in return.

In the last few stanzas of Dickenson’s poem, she writes about how the bird has never asked anything from her. In line 12, it says that the bird never asked a crumb of her. Again this can mean that asking anything in return is out of the question when dealing with the feeling of hope. It was available to her within the “chillest land/ and on the strangest sea” (lines 9-10). Anytime someone needs reassurance of hope, it is accessible to them and will always be there for them. Hope exists in everyone. Dickenson may be trying to portray to her readers that anything can be accomplished if hope is present.

She advises to keep hope close and to admire it for as long as possible to pursue ones high hopes and dreams. Breaking down Dickenson’s poem resulted in a better understanding of what she was trying to portray. Metaphorically, Dickenson uses the bird to resemble hope. Hope belongs in our souls and is eternal, just as she says how the bird perches in our soul and never stops singing. Even in the harshest conditions, the bird continues to sing. Finally, Hope remains in the soul always and asks for nothing because it is free. Hope can be narrowed down to being classified as a gift from God.


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