Emily Dickinson’s short poem beginning “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” is typical of her work in many ways. It is brief; it is untitled; it is whimsical and thought-provoking; and it also displays her characteristic disregard for conventional punctuation and sentence structure (or “syntax”). The poem not only addresses individuality and nonconformity but also exemplifies them in its content and style.
The poem begins, as so many of Dickinson’s poems do, with a paradox in the first line: “I’m Nobody!” To claim that one is a nobody reveals that one is a somebody, that one exists and has an independent identity, even if that personal identity is defined by an absence of social identity. The claim that one is nobody may suggest that one is disregarded by others, but it may also be a way of asserting one’s humility and freedom from narcissism or self-centeredness. Ironically, if the speaker feels that she is “Nobody” because others ignore her, then her poem is a way of defying that kind of treatment—a way of making sure that she is indeed noticed. In the very act of saying “I am Nobody,” she calls herself to our attention.
The second half of line 1 asks, “Who are you?” Although the speaker is ignored or humble, or both, she is not unfriendly. She immediately reaches out to the unnamed “you,” a reference perhaps to the reader. It is as if the speaker were trying to establish a dialogue with another person who can never respond. Thus, paradoxically, her attempt to communicate has the effect of emphasizing her isolation. The whole first stanza can be read as an attempt by the speaker to break free of the isolation, the sense of non-importance, the sense of being a “Nobody” that has been imposed upon her.
In the second and third lines, the speaker suggests that if “you” are also considered (or consider yourself) a “Nobody,” then a mutual lack of conventional identity is the basis for a possible friendship. Again, since there is no way for “you” to respond to the speaker’s question, the speaker is, in a...
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I'm Nobody! Who are you? By Emily Dickinson: Summary and AnalysisThis poem is her most famous and a gentle defense of the privacy she preferred. The present poem is often quoted as an example of modesty of Emily Dickinson. The poem seems to be an illustration of Emily Dickinson's self-exile in a private world of her own. The result of her self-imposed exile was that she remained insignificant during her lifetime. She was nobody in the world.
The speaker of this short eight line poem is Nobody. The Nobody is out of reach of contact with the outside world and the public circle. The speaker lightheartedly raises a question to the reader ‘who are you?’ She makes sure stating ‘Are you – Nobody – Too?’ she then confirms that the reader is also Nobody and there are two of them who are Nobodies. She requests the reader not to mention their identity to the outside world because they may be oppressive and would flash all their private life to the public which she never liked. The speaker and the reader would also lose the chance to be different from the crowd.
In the second stanza, there is a touch of satire. Public life is dreary and cramped. It is like the life of a frog which tells its name all the time to the boggy ground where it lives. The speaker clarifies that it is dreary and dull to be Somebody. These Somebodies are public figures and later on they are compared to the frogs who just croak to the admiring bog. These public figures do not even try to say anything of significance; they just “tell one’s name,” that is, their own name so as to make themselves seem important figure. The “admiring Bog” is the group of people who permit the public figures to think that they are important and are praised. But the frog is not known outside the marshy bog.
I’m Nobody! Who are you? is an example of one of Dickinson’s more comical poems with a bitter satire to the public figures and the mass who creates public figures. The light tone of the poem, childlike use of words and sentences and the invitation to the reader on the side of the speaker clearly presents her satire to the frog like public figures. Dickinson might be talking about her lack of publication as a poet and thus in the outer world she is a Nobody and she hates being published.
This poem mocks the pretensions of the public world calling them a loud frog who advertise their own name to maintain the so called fame. This poem may be speaking towards Dickinson’s lack of publication, even if she published, she did it anonymously. The frogs are praised and made famous by a group of people to whom Dickinson call ‘an admiring Bog’. As the main theme of the poem is self-identity, for her all the members of this Bog lose identity and individuality. They cannot put their opinions, but just agree on what is said. Thus their life is dreary, dull and worthless. It has the hallmarks of a Dickinson poem, namely lots of dashes, unorthodox punctuation and beautiful use of words.