Flowers — Well — If Anybody, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"FLOWERS — WELL — IF ANYBODY" by Emily Dickinson explores the complex emotions that flowers evoke in individuals and compares the aesthetic appreciation of flowers to that of butterflies. Through vivid imagery and contrasting emotions, the poem delves into the intricate beauty of nature and the varying ways in which it can be perceived.

"FLOWERS — WELL — IF ANYBODY"

Flowers — Well — if anybody
Can the ecstasy define —
Half a transport — half a trouble —
With which flowers humble men:
Anybody find the fountain
From which floods so contra flow —
I will give him all the Daisies
Which upon the hillside blow.
Too much pathos in their faces
For a simple breast like mine —
Butterflies from St. Domingo
Cruising round the purple line —
Have a system of aesthetics —
Far superior to mine.

Summary

"FLOWERS — WELL — IF ANYBODY" delves into the intricate emotional responses that flowers evoke in individuals. The poem presents flowers as sources of both delight and trouble, capable of eliciting a complex range of emotions. It contrasts the aesthetic appreciation of flowers with that of butterflies, suggesting that butterflies possess a higher form of aesthetic understanding.

Critical Analysis

The poem begins by acknowledging the difficulty of defining the "ecstasy" evoked by flowers. It implies that the emotional response to flowers is both delightful and troublesome, indicating the complexity of human emotions in their presence.

The speaker offers a challenge to "anybody" to find the source of the emotions that flowers arouse. The mention of the "fountain" and "floods" suggests the profound emotional depth that flowers can evoke in individuals.

The speaker offers the reward of "all the Daisies" to anyone who can identify the source of the emotional impact of flowers. This offer emphasizes the elusive nature of the emotional response and the challenge of pinpointing its origin.

In the next stanza, the speaker acknowledges the "pathos" or deep emotion conveyed by the faces of flowers. The speaker suggests that this emotional intensity is too much for a "simple breast" like theirs to handle, indicating the overwhelming power of the emotional response.

The poem then introduces a comparison with butterflies from St. Domingo, indicating that these butterflies possess a "system of aesthetics" that is "far superior" to the speaker's own. This comparison implies that butterflies have a refined and advanced understanding of beauty and aesthetics.

Themes

  • Beauty and Aesthetics: The poem explores the intricate and complex beauty of flowers and butterflies, highlighting the emotional and aesthetic impact they have on individuals.
  • Emotional Complexity: The poem underscores the multifaceted nature of emotions, suggesting that flowers can evoke both delight and trouble simultaneously.
  • Comparative Aesthetics: The poem compares the aesthetic appreciation of flowers with that of butterflies, suggesting that butterflies possess a superior understanding of aesthetics.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Complex Emotions: The poem conveys a mix of delight, trouble, and pathos in the emotional responses that flowers evoke in individuals.
  • Humility: The speaker acknowledges the limitations of their own aesthetic understanding compared to that of butterflies.

Literary Devices

  • Imagery: The poem employs vivid imagery of flowers, butterflies, and emotional responses to convey the intricate beauty and emotions associated with these natural elements.
  • Contrast: The poem contrasts the emotional responses of delight and trouble associated with flowers, as well as the speaker's aesthetic understanding with that of butterflies.

Discussion Question

How does Emily Dickinson convey the emotional complexity and aesthetic appreciation associated with flowers and butterflies in the poem? What does the comparison between the speaker's aesthetics and that of butterflies suggest about the nature of beauty?

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