Soul, Wilt Thou Toss Again? Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"SOUL, WILT THOU TOSS AGAIN?" by Emily Dickinson contemplates the soul's eternal destiny and the uncertainty of its fate. The poem uses vivid imagery and metaphors to explore the idea that souls may be subject to both the potential of loss and the possibility of salvation. The poem's imagery and language evoke a sense of tension and anticipation, underscoring the significance of the soul's ultimate choice.

"SOUL, WILT THOU TOSS AGAIN?"

Soul, Wilt thou toss again?
By just such a hazard
Hundreds have lost indeed —
But tens have won an all —

Angel's breathless ballot
Lingers to record thee —
Imps in eager Caucus
Raffle for my Soul!

Summary

"SOUL, WILT THOU TOSS AGAIN?" presents a contemplation of the soul's fate, suggesting that it faces a pivotal decision. The poem's language and imagery convey a sense of risk and opportunity, highlighting the tension between potential loss and potential salvation. The poem raises questions about the soul's choices and the forces that might influence its outcome.

Critical Analysis

The poem opens with the speaker addressing the soul directly, asking whether it will "toss again." This phrase implies that the soul is presented with a decision or a choice. The word "toss" suggests a sense of uncertainty and unpredictability, hinting at the idea of a gamble.

The next lines acknowledge that many souls have been lost through such a hazard, implying that making the wrong choice could lead to loss or destruction. However, the poem also notes that there have been instances where souls have won an "all," suggesting salvation or spiritual fulfillment.

The metaphor of an "Angel's breathless ballot" suggests a divine or celestial judgment taking place. The term "ballot" evokes the image of a vote or decision, highlighting the idea that the soul's fate may be determined by a higher power.

The use of the word "Lingers" conveys a sense of waiting and anticipation, as if the outcome is yet to be decided. This choice of word reinforces the idea that the soul's fate is not immediately known but is being carefully considered.

The poem concludes with the image of "Imps in eager Caucus" participating in a raffle for the speaker's soul. The word "Imps" suggests mischievous or supernatural beings, while "Caucus" conveys a sense of secret or informal deliberation. This final image underscores the tension between opposing forces and suggests a sense of urgency and anticipation surrounding the outcome.

Themes

  • Fate and Free Will: The poem grapples with the tension between the potential for loss and the possibility of salvation, suggesting that the soul's ultimate fate may involve a delicate balance between choice and preordained destiny.
  • Spiritual Uncertainty: The poem explores the uncertainty that surrounds the soul's destiny, emphasizing the mystery and complexity of spiritual matters.
  • Divine Judgment: The poem alludes to the concept of divine judgment, presenting the idea that the soul's fate may be determined by higher powers or celestial forces.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Anticipation and Tension: The poem conveys a sense of anticipation and tension, reflecting the weight of the soul's decision and the potential consequences.
  • Ambiguity and Doubt: The poem highlights the ambiguity and doubt surrounding the soul's fate, suggesting that the outcome may remain uncertain until it is decided.

Literary Devices

  • Metaphor: The poem employs metaphors of tossing, hazard, ballot, and raffle to explore the concepts of choice, risk, and fate associated with the soul's journey.
  • Imagery: The poem uses vivid imagery of angels, imps, and a raffle to create a visual representation of the spiritual deliberation and potential outcomes.
  • Allusion: The poem alludes to the idea of divine judgment and the soul's ultimate destiny, drawing on spiritual and religious themes.

Discussion Question

How does Emily Dickinson's use of metaphors and imagery contribute to the sense of uncertainty and anticipation surrounding the soul's fate in the poem "SOUL, WILT THOU TOSS AGAIN?"?

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