The Paper

I really should stop procrastinating papers. The result is I spend 5 hours at the library on a Friday night typing furiously and in the process cause premature carpal tunnel syndrome. No seriously, my hands start aching after about 2 hours. However, I haven’t learned my lesson and this was indeed my fate tonight.

Despite that frustration I really think my paper turned out nicely. It was a compare/contrast piece on Hopkins’ “Thou art indeed just, Lord” and Dickinson’s “This World is Not Conclusion” that I posted on here a couple of weeks ago. You know, it’s amazing what power critical thought has. I knew that I loved Dickinson’s poem the first time I read it. I barely understood everything she said, but I knew I loved it. Then a few weeks later, after a class discussion, multiple re-readings, intense annotations, and meeting with a professor about it, during the writing process I realized what it was about the poem that I loved from the start. Here are the paragraphs:

In contrast to Hopkins’ choice of a highly elevated and conventional verse form, Dickinson’s piece is in common meter. Paradoxically, in a poem that vacillates from one source of truth to the next without definitively landing on any of them, common meter is reflective of a hymn, a poetic style that is fundamentally about declaring belief. Although a seemingly simplistic style, Dickinson harnesses its rhythmic drive to maintain a consistent flow, while concurrently exploring the boundaries of flow with her non-conventional use of punctuation. There is only one completed statement in the entire poem: “This World is not conclusion.” (line 1). Every other thought, including the last line, is interrupted by a dash. This enhances the underlying sense of restiveness as the reader is jolted from one idea to the next without any didactic closure.

Despite this pervasive impression of resigned frustration and the unconcluded thought in the last line, ironically the poem does seem to have closure. Amidst the narrator’s overall dissatisfaction, alongside their contempt for every presented form of epistemology, the concluding lines express a recognition that something higher, something true does exist and cannot be ignored: “Narcotics cannot still the Tooth / That nibbles at the soul -” (lines 19-20). The very existence of this ambiguous entity is enough to gnaw away at any feelings of doubt the soul might have.

I loved her poem because doubt is something we all fall into from time to time. It’s not a good thing, but we do it anyway. And with her words she testified to me that no matter how disillusioned I could become, somewhere deep inside I would always have a testimony that God lives, and knowing that I will never lose that knowledge is wonderful and comforting to me. Somehow my soul was able to interpret the essence of the poem before my mind could. I felt these feelings without completely understanding why, and so I searched for the source and was rewarded. Once again: this is why I’m an English major- it’s the most rewarding studying I’ve ever done.


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