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Poem – ‘Life’, by Emily Dickinson Critical Essay

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Updated: Jun 10th, 2018

I picked up this poem because it makes me realize how best to appreciate the ‘step by step’ achievements in one’s life and how to translate ‘success’. When Emily Dickinson says that looser knows the real meaning of success, it tends to imply that one must be able to recognize the value of one’s achievements in life. This poem gives an idea of how the level of our appreciation increases for something which we do not possess.

This poem tells us about one of the very important philosophies of life. Each one of us wishes to be a successful person. But the moot point is how do we define the success? Or do we really understand the meaning of success? This poem underlines how the term ‘success’ has different connotations under different circumstances.

In general, someone who is not able to attain a certain position or not able to possess something important, feels the importance of that particular position or object. The poem says, success is considered sweetest by those who are never able to succeed. The looser is said to know the meaning of success better than the winner.

Further it states, ‘to comprehend the nectar, requires sorest need i.e. to appreciate the quality of meal one need to have the urge or the hunger for this. To emphasize the point, poet uses the term ‘nectar’, indicating that ‘the drink providing life to the gods’ can only be appreciated if one has the extreme need for it.

In the second stanza, success is being compared with the victory in battle field. Victory laps were often done by kings and emperors in purple robes under a purple flag. The color purple is in general associated with royalty. It is stated that even those who are having a victory lap will find it difficult to define success. This stanza basically integrates the ‘need’ with wants and desires, and stresses the significance of exigency or an urgent requirement.

It is pointed out that though it is not forbidden for the defeated and dying person to hear the voices of victory, but those triumphant celebrations are certainly not meant for him. The irony gets highlighted in the very next line when Dickinson says that for someone who is defeated, the sounds of triumph appear much clearer even if emanating from a far off place.

Presentation of different perspectives of winning and loosing sides makes the poem all the more interesting. Dickinson makes us realize that the loosing side with ‘defeated’ and ‘dying’ soldiers is in a better position to translate the meaning of victory and success. Notwithstanding the agony and clear sounds of triumph from the other side, the distance from victory makes the defeated soldier metamorphic in his approach to understand the meaning of success.

After getting deeper into the meaning of ‘success’ and correlating the circumstances narrated in the poem are we somewhat wiser? Perhaps, after understanding the importance better we might be in a better position to work our way towards our goal with renewed vigor and motivation. Such philosophies often tend to bring new insights into one’s thinking and understanding of issues. That was the basic reason that I opted for this poem.

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IvyPanda. "Poem – ‘Life’, by Emily Dickinson." June 10, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/poem-life-by-emily-dickinson/.

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IvyPanda. 2018. "Poem – ‘Life’, by Emily Dickinson." June 10, 2018. https://ivypanda.com/essays/poem-life-by-emily-dickinson/.

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IvyPanda. (2018) 'Poem – ‘Life’, by Emily Dickinson'. 10 June.

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