My Friend Attacks Friend, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"MY FRIEND ATTACKS MY FRIEND!" by Emily Dickinson captures the theme of conflict and rivalry within human relationships. The poem portrays a vivid image of two friends turning against each other, leading to a battle of words and criticism. Through its use of strong imagery and irony, the poem highlights the complexities of friendships and the potential for conflicts to escalate. It also delves into the idea of power and the desire for superiority, as well as the notion of seeking glory through destructive means.

MY FRIEND ATTACKS MY FRIEND!

My friend attacks my friend!
Oh Battle picturesque!
Then I turn Soldier too,
And he turns Satirist!
How martial is this place!
Had I a mighty gun
I think I'd shoot the human race
And then to glory run!

Summary

"MY FRIEND ATTACKS MY FRIEND!" portrays a situation where one friend attacks another, leading to a picturesque battle of words and criticism. In response, the speaker decides to become a soldier as well, engaging in the conflict. The poem humorously contrasts the idea of friendship with the intensity of the battle and the desire for personal glory.

Critical Analysis

The poem begins with the declaration "My friend attacks my friend!" This simple statement establishes the conflict and rivalry within the relationships of these friends. The use of exclamation marks conveys the intensity of the situation.

The phrase "Battle picturesque" combines conflicting imagery, juxtaposing the idea of a battle with that of something picturesque or visually pleasing. This creates an ironic contrast that reflects the paradox of the situation.

The poem shifts in the second stanza, with the speaker stating that they also become a soldier in response to the conflict. The idea of turning into a soldier suggests taking sides and becoming actively involved in the dispute, emphasizing the escalation of the conflict.

The line "And he turns Satirist!" reveals the nature of the attack as being critical and mocking. This suggests that the conflict has evolved into a verbal battle, where both friends are using words as weapons.

The poem's tone becomes even more ironic and satirical in the third stanza. The speaker contemplates having a "mighty gun" and expresses a desire to "shoot the human race." This exaggerated desire for destruction contrasts sharply with the initial idea of friendship. The speaker's intention to "glory run" after causing destruction adds a layer of dark humor to the poem.

Themes

  • Conflict: The poem explores the theme of conflict within friendships, depicting a situation where friends turn against each other and engage in a battle of words.
  • Irony: The poem uses irony to juxtapose the idea of friendship with the intense conflict, as well as to emphasize the exaggerated desire for destruction.
  • Power and Superiority: The desire to become a soldier and the notion of seeking glory through destruction reflect the theme of power and the desire for superiority over others.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Conflict and Rivalry: The poem conveys feelings of conflict, rivalry, and intensifying tensions within relationships.
  • Satire and Humor: The poem employs satire and dark humor to highlight the absurdity of conflicts within friendships and the exaggerated desires for power and glory.

Literary Devices

  • Irony: Irony is a central literary device used in the poem to contrast the idea of friendship with the conflict and to emphasize the absurdity of the desire for destruction.
  • Imagery: The imagery of battles, soldiers, guns, and destruction creates vivid visual scenes that reflect the intensity of the conflicts and the speaker's exaggerated desires.

Discussion Question

How does the poem use irony to convey the absurdity of conflicts within friendships? How does the speaker's exaggerated desire for destruction and glory contribute to the dark humor of the poem?

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