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In 1874, Dickinson’s father died. This left her deeply distressed. Her mother suffered paralysis a year later and was invalid for the rest of her life. It was during this time that Dickinson cared for her mother and really came to love her. Dickinson’s mother died in 1882. While growing up, the Dickinson children were devoted to one another, even though the house lacked joy. The children had no relationship with their mother, and their father was stern and involved with his work (Donoghue 452).
Dickinson spent the first twenty-five years of her life secluded from all but her closest friends. She had many intense intellectual friendships with several men in succession. She quaintly referred to these men as her tutors. The first of these was Benjamin F. Newton. He was a law student in her father’s office who encouraged her to read and take her talent for writing poetry seriously. Because of Newton’s early death, she looked to Reverend Charles Wadsworth for guidance. “She soon came to regard him as her dearest ‘earthly friend,’ and for purposes of poetry created in his image the ‘lover’ whom she was never to know except in imagination” (Hart 224). Wadsworth’s departure from her life is greatly associated with her increasing fascination with poetry. This prompted her correspondence with T.W. Higginson. His kind words and support helped her through lonely years. She also befriended Samuel Bowles, Dr. J.G. Holland, and Helen Hunt Jackson. These were the few individuals who Dickinson allowed to read some of her works (Hart 224).
Dickinson strongly resisted the doctrine of “election.” This is the view that some were marked from birth for salvation and others were condemned to Hell. At Mount Holyoke, Dickinson was among those who had not been redeemed. She was one of three not saved. To be considered such, she was expected to declare some religious experience. She refused to do so, just to gain a social acceptance. ...
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