Dickinson Week Day Four: “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish — you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one’s name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

Now this famous Dickinson poem, ironically entitled “I’m Nobody! Who are you?”, if we consider how utterly un-famous Emily Dickinson was in her lifetime, really provokes us as readers to appreciate our inconspicuous nature. The poem begins with the speaker’s proclamation that they are ‘Nobody’ (I’ll try my hardest not to harp on about capitalisation again), encouraging the reader to admit that they are nobody too The speaker provokes the reader to consider how ‘dreary’ it would be to be ‘Somebody’, that if a person were Somebody, he would be obliged to be ‘public’ in all that he does. Seclusion was something that Emily Dickinson ultimately strove to achieve in her lifetime, often hibernating in her home and seldom ventured outdoors (fun fact: Emily didn’t even emerge from her room while her father’s funeral took place in 1874). This – arguably excessive – appreciation for seclusion and isolation on the part of Dickinson is starkly denoted in this particular poem, ultimately highlighting that the ability to travel through life under a veil of anonymity is actually a far greater blessing than to forever stand of a stage under a heavy halo of fame.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)


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