Sown in Dishonor, Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

In "Sown in Dishonor," Emily Dickinson engages with themes of judgment, perception, and personal reflection. The poem explores the speaker's contemplation of being viewed negatively by others, contrasting it with her own self-perception. Through biblical references and paradox, Dickinson delves into the complex nature of human judgment and the value of personal integrity.

Sown in Dishonor

"Sown in dishonor"!
Ah! Indeed!
May this "dishonor" be?
If I were half so fine myself
I'd notice nobody!
"Sown in corruption"!
Not so fast!
Apostle is askew!
Corinthians 1. 15. narrates
A Circumstance or two!


"Sown in Dishonor" presents the speaker's contemplation of being judged negatively by others. The speaker questions the validity of this judgment and suggests that if she possessed half the self-importance others attribute to her, she would be oblivious to external opinions. The poem also alludes to a biblical reference from Corinthians, challenging the notion of judgment and portraying it as potentially askew.

Critical Analysis

The poem "Sown in Dishonor" delves into the theme of judgment and contrasts external perceptions with the speaker's own self-awareness.

The phrase "Sown in dishonor" indicates that the speaker is perceived negatively by others. The speaker's questioning tone suggests skepticism about the validity of this judgment.

By stating, "May this 'dishonor' be?" the speaker questions whether this dishonor is valid or merely a subjective opinion.

The speaker asserts that if she were as fine as others seem to believe, she would not pay attention to external judgments. This line reflects the speaker's self-assuredness and her disregard for others' opinions.

The phrase "Sown in corruption" is introduced with skepticism. The speaker challenges the haste with which this judgment is made, suggesting that it may not be accurate.

The reference to "Apostle" and "Corinthians 1. 15." alludes to a biblical text that addresses resurrection and transformation. This reference adds complexity to the poem's exploration of judgment and perception.

The use of paradox in the poem — the speaker's confidence in her own integrity contrasted with others' judgments — highlights the complexities of human perception and the discrepancy between internal and external views.


  • Judgment and Perception: The poem explores the theme of judgment and the contrast between how the speaker perceives herself and how others perceive her.
  • Self-Perception: The speaker's confidence in her own integrity challenges external opinions, emphasizing the importance of personal authenticity.
  • Paradox and Irony: The poem employs paradox to highlight the irony of judgment and to question the validity of external perceptions.


  • Self-Assuredness: The speaker's self-assuredness and disregard for others' judgments reflect her confidence in her own integrity.
  • Skepticism: The speaker's skepticism about external judgments and references to biblical text convey a questioning attitude.


  • Rhetorical Questions: The use of rhetorical questions challenges the validity of judgment and perception.
  • Paradox: Paradox is employed to highlight the contrast between self-perception and external judgments.
  • Biblical Allusion: The allusion to Corinthians adds depth to the poem's exploration of judgment and perception.

Share your thoughts on the interplay between external judgments and self-perception in the comments below. How does Dickinson's use of paradox and biblical allusion contribute to the poem's exploration of these themes?

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