Emily Dickinson

Plenty of encomiums have been showered on Emily Dickinson, a popular elusive figure in American poetry, also known as “The New England Mystic” and “The White Myth of Amherst”. She was born on December 30, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. She is an inspirational icon of transgression, firmly refusing to be confined by societal and literary norms. Unlike traditional poets, she used unusual capitalization, long dashes, and odd punctuation. Her eccentric style of writing set her apart from contemporary poets. From the age of 31, she dressed in white. She spent most of her time in seclusion and sought solace in nature.

Dickinson was reclusive and started dressing in a wholly white garment. That’s why she was recognized as “The White Myth of Amherst”. In fact, after her death, she was buried in a white dress, coffin, and casket lining. Why she wore a white dress is unknown, but there is no doubt about a strong connection between Dickinson and the white color. Critics speculate that her habit of dressing in white was a result of “her frustrated love for a married man, [and] that she dressed in white in order to be the priestess at the altar of love.”

Critics have meticulously discussed the importance of colors in Dickinson’s poetry. There have been many debates on the significance of “whiteness” in her poems. Several critics claim that “whiteness” connotes her staunch rejection of multiple forms of worldliness. Vivian Pollak comments that Dickinson invokes “white” color in her poems to portray the traditional links between whiteness and “feminine self-denial and self-sacrifice”.

One of the boldest interpretations of the “white” color in her poems was attempted by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. They deeply analyzed her habit of dressing in white and postulated that “whiteness” for Dickinson functioned as a symbol of purity, ethereality, self-sacrifice, and a tropological “self- enclosing armor” buttressing sovereignty and independence of women.