They Shut Me Up, I Shut Them Down

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Jodi Ng Dwyer They Shut Me Up, I Shut Them Down Growing up as a reclusive female in the 19th century, Emily Dickinson allows her readers insight into her most intimate thoughts in her poem “They shut me up in Prose—”. The poem conveys her longing to break the mold of her gender, to be heard, and to be understood. Dickinson employs a variety of symbols and metaphors to express herself. In the opening line, “They shut me up in Prose—” (1), the ‘Prose’ represents her gender and ‘they’ represents society. The speaker, a female reflecting as an adult, sees her childhood as one of oppression and containment in the “Closet” (3), an embodiment of 19th century social standards for females to be quiet and docile, seen and not heard, breathing but not alive.…show more content…
The strength of her captors is inequivalent to the strength of her brain, which continues to churn “round” (6). A mind so strong that the speaker “has but to will” (9) to rid herself of captivity. The rebellious speaker scoffs at her keepers, “Still!” (5), for believing that her mind could be contained and silenced, a notion so absurd that it is on par with “[lodging] a Bird/ For Treason— in the Pound” (7-8). This metaphor, comparing the speaker to a symbol of freedom and purity, affirms both the speaker’s ability to break free from constraint, as well as her innocence, seeing that individuality is not something a young girl should be deemed guilty for. The poem is a progression of the speaker’s life from childhood to adulthood, and how she diverges from the norm of females in her

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