A Slanted View on Religious Authority in the work of Emily Dickinson

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A Slanted View on Religious Authority

Emily Dickinson uses her poem, “There’s a certain Slant of light,” to express her view of organized religion. Almost the entire poem is written in a ballad stanza form, which is the same structure of a hymn. Yet, the intention is not to praise the faith taught by the church but to show that it distorts the true idea of God. Dickinson provides variety in this established structure with changes in form and rhythm, giving emphasis to her opinions and conveying an increasing distress and unfulfilled desire. Natural images such as light, shadow, and landscape are presented along with symbols of Christianity to depict the negative influence of religious convention. Dickinson couples these images with
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Therefore, it is the way the light is perceived, not the light itself, which is repressive.

The form of the first quatrain helps to emphasize this idea as well as set the structure to be followed, and broken, over the next three quatrains. In the first line (as well as the title) the only word Dickinson chooses to capitalize (excluding the first word which is capitalized in every line) is, “Slant” (1). The fact that slant is capitalized and light is not provides immediate stress on the importance of perception over reality. Alternating lines of tetrameter and trimeter organize the stanza and it has a trochaic meter. Masculine endings finish each line giving them a feeling of completion. A rhyme scheme of abcb is seen here as well as the rest of the poem and there is slant rhyme with the words, “light,” and, “Heft” (1, 3).

This form carries over into the next quatrain but the scene changes from an image in nature to one of internalized feelings. Dickinson says the slanted light gives people, “Heavenly Hurt,” but then she states that, “We can find no scar” (4-5). The slanted light produces pain through means of religion. Since it has also been linked to false perceptions, the slant of light is representative of spurious and hurtful views that religious convention has regarding the purpose of religion. Forms of personal hurt that can be associated

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