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Emily Dickinson’s “The Goal”

Emily Dickinson’s “The Goal” discusses her theory that each human being lives each day striving to obtain one specific goal. She theorizes that each individual longs to fulfill one specific achievement whether “expressed” to others or is “still” (l. 2) and locked into the individual’s heart.

Dickinson says that it is an inevitable part of human nature to live this way, whether we believe so or not, and have not been able to recognize the specific theme of our life as it is “admitted scarcely to itself” (l. 5). She speculates that we attempt to cover our ambitions from others because we lack “credibility’s temerity” (l. 7) and are scared that we are less accomplished than we should be to even imagine so great of expectations. She also brings out that not only are we wary of sharing our dream to others, but we ourselves approach it “adored with caution” (l. 9).

Even though we ourselves doubt our ability to achieve the extent of our dream, Dickinson says that the further away and the less attainable, the more desirable of an objective it becomes. She says that we chase after our goal like someone chasing after “the rainbow’s raiment” (l. 11) which we continue to pursue for its beauty and the pot of gold, even though we know that it is only an appealing myth and the end of the rainbow does not truly exist at all.

She compares our faith in achieving our goal as someone reaching “a brittle heaven” (l. 9) and living their lives in blind faith that they will ultimately achieve that goal. We all live our lives in part expecting to achieve utopia and to see the face of God at our death, but occasional we question the rationale of this heart’s desire. We do however have to believe on the basis that without that belief, living a moral life and having a supernatural relationship would be ludicrous without that end reward of sitting at the feet of our maker. Likewise, we should live our lives with a mortal goal and faith that we will achieve it. If we approach our earthly desires in this manner, we will be more disciplined, and will seek to achieve this goal with all costs.

Dickinson says that we should be inspired by “the saints’ slow diligence” (l. 15) who have gone before us all working towards their goal of spreading the gospel and doing good works. Likewise we should constantly be striving for our goal, no matter how unrealistic they may appear, in slow and persistent diligence so that we will be more capable to achieve it. Dickinson says that it is very possible to live life to its fullest striving every day towards this goal, and have it still be “ungained (l. 17).” She says this not to discourage us in our quest, but rather to inspire us to influence all the people who will proceed us with similar goals. She says that like we have observed the saints and their diligence, others may observe our work and be inspired and more enabled to achieve their goal because of our quest.

She also mentions that our ultimate reward for living a determined, focused life will be when we die, having achieved our goal or not, because “eternity enables the endeavoring again” (l. 19-20). Whether you interpret this last line to mean that your earthly desire will be fulfilled coincided with spiritual fulfillment and enlightenment, or that the grandeur of heaven will be so magnificent that your seemingly unattainable goal in life will appear petty, Dickinson is successful in her attempts to encourage others to greatness.

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