Emily Dickinson Poetry Characteristics | Writing Style and Themes

Emily Dickinson Poetry Characteristics

Dickinson, also known as Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet best known for themes, writing style and bold characteristics in her poetry. She was born on December 10, 1830 and died on May 15, 1886. In her lifetime, she wrote many wonderful poems with divergent themes and unconventional writing style. Almost every poem of this great American poet has been read all over the world and criticized by students of literature.

Characteristics of Emily Dickinson poetry

Certain Characteristics of Emily Dickinson poetry are:

  • Unconventional themes
  • Varied Moods
  • Shortness and Conciseness
  • Untitled Poems
  • Individualism and Transcendentalism
  • Unbiased Opinions
  • Mysticism and Spiritualism
  • Realism
  • Symbolism
  • Unique Writing Style
  • Distinctive Techniques

Some famous poems with these characteristics are:

Emily Dickinson Poetry Characteristics | Writing Style and Themes

Unconventional Themes

Every poet writes as per his desire and affection. He likes to describe things which he loves. Similarly, Emily Dickinson also likes to write poems on such topics which fascinates her. She has an expressive style of writing poetry, in which she covers bundles of themes. Humanity has not been changed since the creation of mankind. Even the Greek literature that was written thousands of years ago appeals to the readers till date; therefore, literature always has universal appeal. She writes poems in which she covers different subject matters. Needless to mention that she does not write poetry for the sake of poetry but to explore social, political and domestic problems in her poems.

Most of the poems that she wrote contain some common themes; some of them are “innersole exploration”, “death”, “despair”, “sex”, “affection”, “self-identity” etc. In “Because I could not Stop for Death” and “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died“, she portrays themes of immortality and death whereas “Hope is the thing with Feathers” is poem that contains hope as its major theme. In addition, the poem “Wild Nights — Wild Nights” deals with the theme of sex.

Nonetheless, she never repeats the main idea of his poems. Every time she writes a poem, she writes it with a new thematic concept and discusses everything anew, hence, there is freshness in her poems due to which each poem appeals to the readers.

It is also noteworthy that she depicts unconventional themes as evident from naked analysis of her poems. In “Because I could not stop for Death”, she portrays death as a friend. Instead of sketching a horror picture of death, she very beautifully explains it as a certain reality that everyone has to face one day. Accordingly, use of unconventional themes and wide variety of themes are two major characteristics of Emily Dickinson poetry.

Varied Moods

It should be noted that she changes her mood with every new poem she writes. If she focuses on themes of death, despair and pessimism then her tone becomes didactic whereas in the remaining poems her mood remains humorous.

Shortness and Conciseness

She does not go beyond the topic that she discusses in her poem due to none of her poems is so long. She does not add any extra useless words in her poems. When she talks about social problems, usually a single speaker talks about the issues. He expresses his opinions on the matter and readers understand the whole situation. For instance, in her poem, “Because I could not stop for Death” she uses the first person but that does not mean she talks about herself.

Untitled Poems

Many poets support the idea of not giving title to their poems. It is the case with her poems. It is also one of the noticeable characteristics of Emily Dickinson poetry that she writes untitled poems and as a rule of thumb the first line of each poem becomes the title of the poem, hence, every titleless poem she has written was published with the first line as its title.

Individualism and Transcendentalism as characteristics of Emily Dickinson Poetry

American poetry is rarely romantic. In fact, every American poet talks about individualistic problems. Sylvia Plath is one of the major poets who wrote poems with the themes of self identity. Emily Dickenson poems are also based on these types of unique themes. She also deals with the themes of isolation. Her poetry is thus the poetry of analytical reasoning. Her power of imagination helps her in this regard. She imagines such a situation which hardly anyone imagined in his life due to which she grabs the interest of her readers.

She is among those persons who understands life relationships; Emily Dickinson does not take any idea as a religious belief, hence, transcendentalism and realism are also two important characteristics of her poetry.

There was a time when the primary purpose of poets was to show the relationship between humans and gods. Subsequently, the poets started writing poetry in which they portrayed the influence of society on one’s life. Emily Dickenson’s poetry lacks such traditional themes. She talks about her own problems. She likes to write about her personal problems but that does not mean her poetry is only for herself. There is a kind of universality in her poems as her problems are the problems of almost every person.

Unbiased Opinions

It is also worth mentioning that she does not write for a specific caste, group or nation. In fact, she was highly criticized for not being patriotic at all. She does not even write a single poem, in which she shows herself as a patriotic soul. So, it is safe to say that her poetry is totally impartial.

Mysticism and Spiritualism as characteristics of Emily Dickinson Poetry

Among other important characteristics, a major attribute of Emily Dickinson poetry is that there is mysticism and spiritualism in it. In her views, poetry has a divine inspiration; therefore, she writes poetry with full poetic perspectives. Most of the poems she writes are the result of her personal thinking and imagination. She also shares the themes of pains and sufferings in almost every poem as she thinks that life is based on these two ingredients. It also shows that in the 19th century, American literature was not influenced by any second thought, hence, it was entirely based on personal issues.


There is no denying the fact that realism is the characteristic due to which Emily Dickinson poetry is remarkable and a hallmark of American literature. In her poetry, she never creates a utopian or perfect world. Life is full of problems and she talks about them realistically. Instead of escaping from the problems of life, she compels her readers to face them. For instance, when she talks about death. She pretends that it is her only friend in this world and certain death has come to take her to another world.

Love life of Emily Dickinson was very distributed. Her poetry reflects one sided love and affection. She writes about the miseries that a person suffers being in a relationship. Like romantic poets she does not exaggerate natural objects as nature no longer gives her pleasure in the way it feels pleasant to the romantic poets. She is not in favor of love as love played no important role in her life. It is apparent from her poetry that she gives a message to her readers that love is the only reason due to which every female has no self respect at all. She is of the view that life of a married woman becomes full of miseries and she loses her place in the society.

In addition, she proves that people love each other just for physical pleasure. Love does not mentally support a person. In fact, her poems prove that love is a basic need for physical satisfaction. It is not wrong to say that love has no special value in the eyes of Emily Diconson. She always talks about reality and speaks the truth. Thus, themes of love and affection are very rare in her poetry.


Poets that write realistic poems frequently use the technique of symbolism. In fact, every writer preaches a specific message through symbols that he uses in his poetry. Emily Dickinson like other American poets, uses a lot of symbolic images in her poems to convey a message to her audience/readers. Mostly, the symbols she uses gives a pessimistic atmosphere. Defining life is hard but she knows how to write a message in hidden words in an artistic manner. Consequently, symbolism is one of the major characteristics of Emily Dickinson poetry.

Unique Writing Style and Distinctive Technique as characteristics of Emily Dickinson Poetry

As far as her writing style is concerned, she uses more dashes than any other punctuation mark in her poetry. Perhaps, she is the only American writer who uses more dashes than commas or any other punctuation mark; however, she writes concise sentences. She knows the art of choosing an exact word for a specific idea. Grammatically, poets are always not dependent on grammar nor do they follow it completely. Similarly, Emily Dickenson does not keep an eye on the grammatical structure of her poems. Usually, she does so for creating lyrics and rhymes in poems.

So far as the rhythm in Emily Dickinson poetry is concerned, she has experimented with different techniques due to which unique writing style and distinctive style of writing are two best characteristics of her poetry. She uses different punctuation marks for different purposes. For instance, she uses (‘) in order to create stress in a line. Usually, she writes poems with stanzas containing four lines. Nevertheless, she writes poems with such a passion that it increases interest of her readers.