Whose Cheek Is This? by Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"WHOSE CHEEK IS THIS?" by Emily Dickinson is a brief and enigmatic exploration of the speaker's encounter with a rosy-cheeked face found in the woods. The poem captures the fleeting nature of beauty and the uncertainty of identity, leaving the reader with a sense of mystery and contemplation.

WHOSE CHEEK IS THIS?

Whose cheek is this?
What rosy face
Has lost a blush today?
I found her — "pleiad" — in the woods
And bore her safe away.
Robins, in the tradition
Did cover such with leaves,
But which the cheek —
And which the pall
My scrutiny deceives.

Summary

"WHOSE CHEEK IS THIS?" presents a mysterious encounter where the speaker finds a rosy-cheeked face in the woods. The speaker's observation leads to uncertainty about the identity of the person and the source of the blush.

Critical Analysis

With its brevity and intriguing imagery, "WHOSE CHEEK IS THIS?" captures a moment of discovery and reflection. The poem emphasizes the fleeting nature of beauty, symbolized by the rosy blush on the cheek. The face's blush, often associated with youth and vitality, has been "lost" or faded, suggesting the passage of time and impermanence.

The word "pleiad" alludes to a group of seven sisters in Greek mythology, associated with the constellation Pleiades. The term adds a touch of mythological and celestial imagery to the poem. The speaker's act of "bearing her safe away" implies a protective gesture, as if safeguarding the memory of the rosy-cheeked face.

The mention of "Robins, in the tradition" adds another layer of mystery. It's unclear what tradition is being referred to and how the robins are connected to it. The poem's enigmatic tone invites readers to interpret this detail and ponder its significance.

The closing lines "But which the cheek — / And which the pall / My scrutiny deceives" leave readers in a state of uncertainty. The speaker's scrutiny and contemplation raise questions about the true nature of the encounter. Is the "pall" a metaphorical veil, and which aspect is being deceived — the appearance or the perception?

Themes

  • Transience of Beauty: The rosy blush on the cheek symbolizes the fleeting nature of beauty and the passage of time.
  • Mystery and Uncertainty: The poem's mysterious tone and unanswered questions invite readers to contemplate the identity of the face and the significance of the encounter.
  • Nature and Perception: The encounter takes place in the woods, highlighting the connection between nature and human perception.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Curiosity: The speaker's curiosity about the identity of the rosy-cheeked face and the circumstances surrounding it drives the poem's exploration.
  • Contemplation: The poem's enigmatic nature encourages contemplation and reflection on the fleeting aspects of life.

Language

  • Imagery: The imagery of the rosy cheek and the woods creates a vivid and evocative scene that captures the reader's attention.
  • Allusion: The reference to the "pleiad" adds a layer of mythological allusion, enhancing the poem's depth.

Reflect on the fleeting nature of beauty and the moments that leave a lasting impression in your own life. Have you encountered something in nature or a person that made you reflect on the passing of time and the mysteries of existence? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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