Middle of Nowhere Productions

Middle of Nowhere Productions

Commentary Poem 642 Emily Dickinson

SELF : In psychoanalysis, the division of the psyche that is conscious, most immediately controls thought and behavior, and is most in touch with external reality.

The conscious mind, based on perception of the environment from birth onwards: responsible for modifying the antisocial instincts of the id and itself modified by the conscience (superego)

Id, ego, and super-ego are the three parts of the psychic apparatus defined in Sigmund Freud's structural model of the psyche; they are the three theoretical constructs in terms of whose activity and interaction our mental life is described. According to this model of the psyche, the id is the set of uncoordinated instinctual trends; the super-ego plays the critical and moralizing role; and the ego is the organized, realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the super-ego.[1] The super-ego can stop one from doing certain things that one's id may want to do.



Emily Dickinson’s poem 642 , like every poem she wrote, is not easy to understand. The multiplication of dashes, which may represent zones of silence corresponding to her incapacity to express what she would like to, makes the reader even more insecure.

Yet, what is obvious in poem 642 is its thorough recapitulation of every linguistic marker related to the first person. What is at stake then can only be the writer’s self, or the writer selves. In terms of grammar, it is interesting to note that the first verse offers a very nice absence/presence of the subject: the operator  to, in to banish, is supposed to found a potential subject on the left ; what we paradoxically find are two object forms : Me and Myself, whereas this potential subject, which should be I, is still potentially present, but invisible…

I, me, myself, my, we. Every single one of them is present in the poem, and the second obvious thing in it, also directly readable, is the notion of conflict :  banish, invicible my fortress, peace, sujugating, abdication.

Without trying to get deeper in the analysis, we can jump to a first conclusion : the poetess is experiencing a conflict between the different elements that compose her personality, since one of those elements must be banished from the other. She obviously would like to suppress her instinctual component, me, from her conscious self, myself.

She considers writing as a way to perform this operation, since she invokes Art as what can make her fortress invincible. She must be scared of what her reptilian instincts might suggest (let’s not forget that she died a virgin). She also would like to reach oneness, stop feeling heterogeneous, and have total control over herself : the word monarch, etymologically, refers to uniqueness (monos), and her problem is the existence of mutual monarchs, which goes against sense.

Yet she seems to be reshuffling the cards in the last verse : no longer me from myself, but Me of Me, which tends to repel any form of analysis (total annihilation, perhaps ?). But we can relate that to what Ted Hughes calls another goblin, whose presence at the end of the ritual only gets the reader’s puzzlement spinning again.

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