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The poem “I had actually been starving all the years” by Emily Dickinson checks out the persona’s modification of attitude towards food. This poem can be taken literally or metaphorically and I have actually chosen to understand it actually.
From the beginning of the poem, the personality informs us that she (presuming the personality is a woman) has actually not consumed completely for a long time: “all the years”. However, now it is time for her to eat – at midday.
She takes a rather tentative technique to the table perhaps since she is scared that this space that holds the food is too good to be real. Terrified that if she may make an abrupt move, this room might vanish. Other possibilities to why she’s trembling may be the anticipation of really eating the food or the truth that she’s so starving that she’s physically shivering. Either way, she touches the red wine glass meticulously, providing me an impression that she hasn’t seen white wine prior to: “curious”.
In the 2nd stanza, the persona tells us her thoughts on food. She browses windows at the tables of food whenever she’s “turning, hungry, only”. Wealth, in this poem, suggests two things: one being material wealth such as estate, furnishings, and money. The other is food. Browsing a window from the outdoors, food to her is “wealth”. From this I deduced that the persona is exceptionally poor to be out on the streets – a homeless person.
The third stanza supports the assumption I made in the previous paragraph “shared in Nature’s dining-room”.
Nature’s dining-room is the outside world of the streets, where homeless people eat and sleep. Ample bread is so foreign to her that she is in awe and wonder of how large the bread is. The amount of food she eats is of a crumb, similar to the way birds eat – pecking at crumbs on the ground.
This fourth stanza is where the change occurs. She has fully eaten for the first time and discovers that “the plenty” hurts. This is because she/her body is not accustomed to the amount of food she has eaten and thus, the result of her feeling ill and odd. Beforehand she eats as much as the birds do – only crumbs – but her situation of being hungry changes. And this is what makes her realize that food is not as appealing as she once previously thought. Food is more delicious and wonderful when one is hungry but bland when one is ill and odd (or full).
In satisfying her desire for food, she had learnt: “That hunger was the way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.”
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