As Children Bid The Guest Goodnight, Emily Dickinson: Analysis & Summary

"AS CHILDREN BID THE GUEST 'GOOD NIGHT'" by Emily Dickinson explores the concept of flowers closing their petals at nightfall and opening them again in the morning. Through this simple natural process, the poem draws parallels to the actions of children bidding guests farewell and then excitedly welcoming the morning. Dickinson uses this comparison to capture the innocence, liveliness, and cyclical nature of both nature and human behavior.

"AS CHILDREN BID THE GUEST 'GOOD NIGHT'"

As children bid the guest good-night,
And then reluctant turn,
My flowers raise their pretty lips,
Then put their nightgowns on.
As children caper when they wake,
Merry that it is morn,
My flowers from a hundred cribs
Will peep, and prance again.

Summary

"AS CHILDREN BID THE GUEST 'GOOD NIGHT'" likens the behavior of flowers at night to that of children bidding guests farewell and then eagerly welcoming the morning. The poem presents a charming image of flowers raising their petals during the day and closing them at night, as if putting on "nightgowns." Similarly, children are excited to wake up in the morning, just as flowers open their petals to the light. The poem ends by suggesting that the flowers, like children, will continue their lively and playful behavior, peeping and "prancing" anew from their "cribs" (their stems and buds) each morning.

Critical Analysis

The opening lines establish the comparison between children bidding guests good night and flowers closing their petals at nightfall. The word "reluctant" captures the sense of innocence and reluctance in both actions.

The image of flowers raising their "pretty lips" suggests the act of flowers opening their petals to the sunlight during the day, akin to children's cheerful interaction with guests.

The phrase "put their nightgowns on" charmingly anthropomorphizes the flowers, creating a vivid and playful image of flowers closing their petals like children getting ready for bed.

The second stanza continues the comparison, describing children's energetic behavior upon waking and their happiness that morning has arrived.

The final lines extend the metaphor by suggesting that flowers, like children, will continue their lively and playful behavior as they "peep" and "prance" from their buds and stems each morning.

Themes

  • Nature's Cycles: The poem highlights the cyclical nature of both the natural world and human behavior. Flowers and children both follow routines that involve waking and sleeping, interacting with light and darkness.
  • Innocence and Playfulness: The comparison between children and flowers underscores their shared innocence and joy in their actions. Both exhibit a sense of playfulness and liveliness.
  • Connection to Nature: The poem celebrates the connection between humans and the natural world, drawing parallels between the behavior of children and the behavior of flowers.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Charm and Delight: The poem conveys a sense of charm and delight in its imagery of flowers and children engaging in parallel behaviors.
  • Innocence: The innocence of both flowers and children is reflected in their simple and natural actions.
  • Joy and Liveliness: The poem captures the joy and liveliness of children and flowers as they interact with the world around them.

Literary Devices

  • Simile: The poem uses simile to compare the behavior of flowers to the actions of children, creating a parallel between the two.
  • Personification: The poem employs personification to attribute human-like qualities to flowers, such as raising their "pretty lips" and putting on "nightgowns."

Discussion Question

How does Dickinson's comparison between the behavior of flowers and that of children emphasize the themes of innocence, playfulness, and the cyclical nature of both nature and human life?

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