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I Started Early-Took My Dog Research Paper

The speaker of Emily Dickinson’s “I started Early – Took my Dog -” dramatizes the conflict between nature and man. The speaker dramatizes her need to unite with nature, but with the ever present reluctance of humanity, by describing a scene in which she is friendly with the ocean and they both yearn for each other until she leaves for good. The speaker begins the poem wanting to be a part of nature, as she gives herself over to the sea, but abruptly realizes the power behind the sea and how easily it could hurt her and returns to a life of humanity rather than in nature.

Through this storyline, the poet describes the conflict between nature and man. Throughout the poem, the only information given by the poet about the speaker are the few facts that she is a woman, through her “Boddice,” that she owns and is with a dog, through “Took my Dog,” and finally her seeming independence from man or from men, through “But no Man moved Me” (Dickinson 12, 1, 9). The speaker starts by stating that she “started Early – Took [her] Dog – / And visited the Sea -” providing setting for the rest of the poem, early morning by the seaside, until she comes to “[meet] the Solid

Town -” which presents an extended setting of a seaside town (1-2, 21). Finally, the poet is seemingly writing about this experience as a way to exemplify her unity with nature, how truly difficult it is to remove herself from it, but also the necessity of her leaving. The poet begins her story with setting in the first two lines, but then moves to speak about friendly mermaids within the same stanza, exemplifying that it is not necessarily about where she is, but how she feels and how she interacts with nature.

Her description of “Mermaids in the Basement” who “Came out to look at” her provides for a sense f unity by describing the creatures of the sea as friendly enough to interact with her, and describes nature as if it were a house with her metaphor relating the sea to a “Basement” (3, 4). Dickinson’s speaker uses a soft tone to tell her story through the use of soothing images such as the early morning and mermaids while she also relays details in free verse, which allows the poem to be laid back and soothing.

Her use of iambic tetrameter followed by iambic trimeter provides a visual on the page almost like the ebb and flow of waves as well, further presenting a calm tone. Finally, her punctuation in this stanza allows for pauses between ideas, as in the difference between “And visited the Sea -” and ” The Mermaids in the Basement” even though they are two adjoining lines. The speaker continues with a tone of comfort with nature throughout the second stanza, which she begins with the image of “Frigates – in the Upper Floor / [Extending] Hempen Hands -” as if the boat were reaching out for her with its ties and ropes (5).

She then relates herself to a “Mouse – / Aground – opon the Sands -” still feeling a unity with the natural world as she appears to be an animal, ather than a part of humanity, but very small and insignificant on comparison to nature (7-8). In this paragraph however, the breaks do not separate ideas, but rather separated subjects and objects from their descriptions, as with “Frigates – in the Upper Floor” and “a Mouse – / Aground – opon the Sands” (5, 7-8). These breaks momentarily cause for less of a smooth and calm presentation, however, the speakers ABCB rhyme scheme for the first two stanzas reminds the reader of the comforting tone.

As she moves into the third stanza, the speaker’s tone and main oint changes, especially as she begins the first line with a strong statement of “But no Man moved Me” exemplifying her disconnect with humanity. Such a statement is directly followed by “till the Tide” simultaneously personifying nature, or the tide, and proving how her connection with nature is much deeper than the connection with man, as she is moved by no one but the tide. Following a profound connection with nature, the speaker describes a process of being absorbed by the sea as: “… he Tide Went past my simple Shoe – And past my Apron – and my Belt And past my Boddice – too -” (9-12). This act of becoming a part of the ocean is the speaker’s ultimate unification with nature, and is the apex of the story, just before she realizes the danger she is in. The following fourth stanza begins with a continuation of the speakers absorption as the tide “made as He would eat [her] up -” again personifying the tide, but making it increasingly more persistent, violent, and frightening to the speaker (13).

She then uses another metaph for nature when she describes her absorption as “As wholly as a Dew / Opon a Dandelion’s Sleeve -” creating yet another onnection between herself and the environment around her as well as describing her submission to the sea as unknowing as the quick disappearance of dew from a flowers petals. This paragraph, however, still twists further at the end, causing the speaker to turn from the water and “[start] – too -” causing a sense of unrest and uncertainty within the stanza, exemplifying her fear of death with the sea (160.

However, the unity of a ABCB rhyme scheme and the wave-like motions of the meter of the first pair of stanzas is ever present within the second pair. The vocabulary of these stanzas allows the speaker to establish he tide as a man, or an overarching power for many 19th century women, to establish herself as a woman through her clothing, and to allude to nature even as she speaks of a different form of nature engulfing her. Finally, the third and fourth stanzas return to the punctual patterns of the first stanza in which the breaks in between lines and even words are meant to provide a sense of solitary meaning to each break.

Even as the speaker retreats from the tide, “He followed – close behind -” exemplifying how the connection felt is not only felt by the speaker, as the ocean yearns for her in the same way she does t, but as she realizes the doom which would come along with joining the sea, the sea continues to attempt to take her in (17). She also describes the feeling of the ocean wanting her to return as “My Shoes / Would overflow with Pearl -” (19-20). By relating the sensation of water at her feet to such a precious item as a pearl, she reveals just how close and valuable nature is to her, but the “overflow” shows a more intense form of this fantasy.

As the tide recedes in the next stanza, the connection is lost because the speaker decides to return to town, in lieu of being eaten up by the sea (13). The poet writes: “Until We met the Solid Town – No One He seemed to know – And bowing – with a Mighty look – At me – The Sea withdrew -” exemplifying her lost connection, and how nature and humanity may never truly unite based on their stark differences and their inability to thrive within the same circumstances (21-24).

By describing the town as “solid” the speaker makes herself seem fluid, as the tide did not fear her or retreat from her, but it did the town (21). She then goes on to explain that the tide knew no one in the town, exemplifying the true disconnect between umanity and nature, as nature does not even seem to recognize the people in the town (22). In the final two lines of the poem, the reader describes her painful break with the sea as he bows “- with a Mighty look – / At me – The Sea withdrew -” (23-24).

This break is painful for the sea, as well, because she describes the way he looks at her as a “Mighty look” as if he is saddened by the parting, but has no other choice (23). The description of the sea breaking from the speaker because of her essential choice to return to a land of man over staying with ature is a strong final statement that man’s choice to break from nature for innovation, comfort, and in some cases safety, causes the ultimate breaking point of nature and man.

This romantic ideology describes heartbreak and the ultimate effect of industrialization. Further, the same meter continues, but the rhyme scheme changes. There is no longer a sense of unity and equality within the stanzas, speaking towards how the theme of the poem changes. Ultimately, the changes between the first four stanzas and the final two exemplify a clear break of society and nature, as well as an inability to unite.

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