Honors Poetry Explication 1

Marianne Moore’s What Are Years? seems an example of her early works as it utilizes complex imagery and prosodic patterns, themes of her early poetry. My initial interpretation of the poem was that Moore split the poem into three sections to reflect three stages of life (emulating themes of the “Voyage of Life Series” by Thomas Cole). I interpreted the first stanza as “innocent” childhood, the second as “struggling” young adulthood/adulthood, and the third as acceptance of “mortality” in late life. However, further analysis makes me think otherwise.

The opening lines begin with Moore’s existential, “unanswered question” of what makes us courageous. She asks why, in times of “resolute doubt” we soldier on and go about life despite the challenges before us. Her phrasing here jumps out. The word “resolute” creates such a final and sad tone that contrasts her chilling, final lines of the stanza, “in its defeat, stirs/the soul to be strong”. Her choice to separate the phrase elongates and suspends the sentence, first emphasizing the two timid descriptors, “defeat” and “stirs” then the conflicting, powerful alliteration of “soul” and “strong”.

The second stanza is the narrative of vivid imagery of seeing “deep”, encapsulating the feeling of drowning and how she wrestles with the thought of death. Her choice of the word “accedes” creates rhythm in the stanza that causes a natural slowing of the poem until it picks up speed again with imagery of “imprisonment” and panic as death looms. The poem continues at this speed with struggling until the “sea in a chasm” occurs when suddenly she is flying above worry and has a revelation that mortality is what makes life worth living, what makes “continuing” worth it.

The third stanza uses the metaphor of the “imprisoned”, “caged” bird conjuring similar themes of Emily Dickinson’s Hope Is a Thing With Feathers. The bird “steels” his form straight up once again conveying vivid imagery of picking oneself up and moving on and even “mighty singing”. “Mighty” inspired me and created a lift and pause in the poem, conveying a newfound confidence and resolution. The ending lines are my favorite, though, contrasting the satisfaction of mortality and eternal joy. This perfectly wraps up the poem. I think that she tried to convey that one can spend their whole life trying to do everything right, outsmarting mortality and feeling satisfaction. But, they may never achieve true joy that lives longer than the human life as it can only be achieved through accepting mortality and making the most of it.

Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s 320


Emily Dickinson’s 320 deals with themes of death which is somewhat predictable for Dickinson, but what makes this poem different, is that this poem delves into the competing narratives of religious teachings and her personal instincts. 320 begins with imagery of attractive light but describes it as oppressive and of heft. Here she expresses the heavy weight that the light casts which I interpret as Heavenly imagery. The weight of heaven reflects the weight that death has on her mind (which is often the case for Dickinson). The last line of the stanza says that the light is “Of Cathedral Tunes” and at this point, she is contrasting the Church’s narrative of death and instincts of death. Here, she breaks her rhyme scheme (which is generally ABCB in this poem), reflecting her break from the church’s values. In the following stanza, she elaborates on her personal views of death, claiming that one who dies and goes to heaven with “Heavenly Hurt” (capitalized to imply that its a proper noun since it is religious imagery). Dickinson also claims that faith should be in tandem with soul searching, or “internal difference where Meanings are”. “Meaning” is capitalized here to create a pause for further emphasis as it is elaborated on later. The following stanza discusses her frustration with the church’s teachings, deeming it “Seal Despair”, implying that “none can teach” these meanings. The final stanza concludes with the personal experience of death. Dickinson says “the landscape listens-“. The hyphen suspends the phrase for a moment, reflecting nature’s pause to observe death. Then, the death goes “like the Distance”, proving that only in that time, can one truly find their own  truth and meaning.


Baym, Nina, and Robert S. Levine, eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012. Print.

A full version of her poem can be found here


Source Evaluation 2

Heavens on Earth (Source 2)

Heavens on Earth by Mark Holloway is great source for my research paper because it’s a comprehensive analysis of several utopian communities over many decades. Because the book is so comprehensive, I would consider it more of a secondary source which happens to be just what I’m looking for in terms of background information regarding the rise of utopian communities. Although specific references to and analyses of Brook Farm, in particular, were few and far between, Holloway covered many other similar utopian experiments and dug deep into aspects that made some successful and others unsuccessful.

Holloway proves that although utopian societies are very different in their ideals, goals, and varying levels of success, the recognizable continuity lies in the religious origins of the community. According to Holloway, utopian communities generally rise out of religion or a varying version of a religious sector. In particular, Brook Farm rose out of Unitarian ideals that George Ripley extracted after preaching Unitarianism. What makes Brook Farm different from other successful and unsuccessful utopian communities, it that members of were encouraged to practice whatever religion they chose to any degree they chose. Holloway also identifies the influence of Transcendentalism briefly, but fails to further elaborate.

Unlike the first source I used, Heavens on Earth conveys utopian communities as small scale versions of extremism, stemming from Socialist and Communist ideals. In this way, the source is weakened because Holloway makes this broad statement without addressing specific evidence. For instance, many ideologies of Brook Farm seem to parallel ideas of communism and socialism, it was neither truly a Communist, nor Socialist Community.

Citation (book):

Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. New York: Dover Publications, 1966. Print.

Citation (picture):

Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880. New Yok: Dover Publications, 1966. Front Cover. Print.


Source Evaluation 1

The article “Brook Farm” from the New England Magazine (Volume XVIII No. 4) backs my argument that Brook Farm was monumental event in social experimentation, changing the course of the functions of society.

The article seemed a general glance at Brook Farm, its ideals, and a description of its first settlers. However, the editorial was much more in-depth, making it a primary source rather than the secondary source I was hoping for. The editorial identifies Brook Farm’s founder (George Ripley), describes the (Unitarian/Transcendentalist) origins of Brook Farm, its education ideology, and paints the picture of the enormous property, the buildings, and the culture of their utopian lifestyle. The culture seemed the most researched part of the editorial. In some ways, Brook Farm was complex and detailed, but in other ways it was minimalist (the economic system and everyday life, respectively). Quotes from George Ripley, residents, and visitors enhanced the editorial and offered many perspectives that were  further expanded upon in the by the author.


The editorial addresses the misconceptions of Brook Farm being a Communist or Socialist experiment, when in fact, Brook Farm was a utopian social experiment composed of “a company of teachers” who are “thoroughly happy”. This was the only section that the author’s bias was clear as he vehemently expresses his opposition to the idea that Brook Farm was a Communist or Socialist experiment. The only weakness I found in the editorial was this portion. The topic was addressed sporadically and not particularly clearly. Overall, though, the editorial was both meticulously researched and factual.

Citation of Editorial and Picture:

Cooke, George Willis. “Brook Farm.” New England Magazine Volume 0023 Issue 4 Dec. 1897: 391-407. Making Of America. Cornell University Library. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.

Analysis of Hawthorne’s Work

“We are soothed as we read; and withal is a calm astonishment that ideas so apparently obvious have never occurred or been presented to us before.”


Though Hawthorne’s literary works are often complex in their meaning and theme, his distinctive stylistic writing simplifies the text, yielding a more accessible and more interesting text. Hawthorne’s Wakefield, in particular, is a perfect example. Wakefield is written in a kind of conversational folklore. In other words, Hawthorne writes as though he is conversing with his reader and in doing so, he stays true to his theme of “twice-told tales”. In Poe’s critique of Hawthorne, Poe stated that, as readers, “We are soothed as we read”, which is true. Hawthorne sets the tone of ease by first conjuring an image of casual storytelling. Although he doesn’t explicitly set this scene, his conversation with the reader is similar to that of an elder telling a child a folktale. The first and most obvious example comes in his introductory paragraph. “In some old magazine or newspaper, I recollect a story, told as truth, of a man–let us call him Wakefield–who absented himself for a long time, from his wife”. Personally, I was able to connect and visualize the story immediately, settling into the twice-told tale/folktale. As the text continues, there are numerous examples of this in his questions such as “What sort of a man was Wakefield”, in his interjections “Let us now imagine Wakefield bidding adieu to his wife”, and exclamations “Wakefield! Whither are you going?” In addition, Poe states that Hawthorne’s distinct style extends to the way he presented his ideas. Poe recognized that through the progression of Hawthorne’s work, as Hawthorne would introduce new ideas, he presented his ideas as fact. Hawthorne introduced his ideas so persuasively, that the reader would think his ideas were obvious. Although Hawthorne doesn’t explicitly state his ideas, he certainly injects his thoughts on the story. “His fate was turning on the pivot”, “It is perilous to make a chasm in human affections”, and finally his conclusion that “individuals are so nicely adjusted to a system…and to a whole, that, by stepping by for a moment, a man exposes himself to a fearful risk of losing his place forever.” In essence, Hawthorne not only interjects his ideas in the text, but more clearly in his social observations that seem so plainly apparent in his style.

Find Poe’s original review of Hawthorne’s work here

The Scarlet Letter Close Reading

“Could it be true? She clutched the child so fiercely to her breast, that is sent forth a cry; she turned her eyes downward at the scarlet letter, and even touched it with her finger, to assure herself that the infant and the shame were real. Yes!–these were her realities,–all else had vanished.” (483)

In this section, Hester Prynne is affronted with the sharp reality of her situation and the significance of her betrayal and defiance of Puritan values. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s text is most enhanced by his choice of words and the way he portrays reality. His choice of words enhances his text through the contradiction of Prynne’s fierceness versus the gentleness of her newborn child. His choice to use “fierceness” is also an interesting choice of words because her fierceness is not a representation of anger, but a representation of her struggle to grasp reality. Hawthorne continues the theme of contradiction in his description of Prynne’s dueling realities: the joy of motherhood versus the public humiliation of wearing a scarlet letter. Later in the book, Hawthorne describes Prynne as being emotionally absent and confused but this passage provides insight as to why she seems that way. Prynne is overwhelmed by the attention and shame that she is suddenly faced with, further clouding her perception of reality that becomes a continuous theme throughout the text.