Themes of Pain, Suffering and Growth are One of the Prominent Elements of Dickinson’s Poetry
Dickinson’s poetic world is permeated with pain and suffering and the struggle to evade, face, overcome and wrest meaning from it, or growing from it. Suffering is central to her poetic faith, and it is involved in the creative processes as well. It is part of her ambivalent response to the mysteries of time and nature. Suffering plays a major role in her poems on suffering. Her poems on the subjects of suffering and growth can be divided into three groups: (1) poems that focus on deprivation as a cause of suffering, (2) those dealing with suffering bring compensatory rewards or spiritual growth.
Love-deprivation lies behind many of her poems. “Renunciation is a Piercing Virtue” deals with theme of her abandoning the hope of a beloved person. However, she is less visible here than in some of her poems where a lover is visible, and she is not clear about the final meaning of her painful experience.
Some of her poems deal with childhood deprivation. In them she is explicit about the sources of her suffering, but they are less powerful than her general treatment of suffering. “Pain-has an Element of Blank” is one of her poems in which her anguish goes on indefinitely. It is a timeless suffering, mental, rather than physical. “After Great Pain a Feeling Comes” is Dickinson’s most popular poem about suffering, and one of her greatest poems. The pain is psychological here, and there is no real damage to the body and no pursuit of healing. “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” is about death, but it seems to be a dramatization and a final sinking into a proactive numbness like that portrayed in “After Great Pain”.
Some of Dickinson’s poems about poetry and art reflect her belief that suffering is necessary for creativity.
Poems on love and on Nature suggest that suffering will lead to a fulfillment of love or that the fatality which she feels present in Nature elevates her and sharpen her sensibility.
“My Cocoonn Tightens, Colours Tease” is both a lighter and a sadder treatment of the pursuit of truth. Its metaphor of self as a butterfly makes u think that it is about the struggle for personal growth.
“Dare you see a soul at the White Heat?” is a poem of celebration of growth through suffering. The blacksmith’s forge is described as a symbol of every soul which passes through the fires of rebirth.
Pain and suffering are, to Dickinson, the very expression of eternity. The infinity of human suffering is brought out in mystical terms in the poem “Pain- Has an Element of Blank”. Pain is a consummate experience which paves the way for Heaven. In “The Hallowing of Pain” the poet says that Heaven is not achieved by one who labours in the midway, that is, half-heartedly, but he reaches heaven who tries with utmost pain to reach there. The road to Heaven is covered with hurdles of pain.
Dickinson believes that the happiest experience of life become more vivid and picturesque, and therefore more memorable when they are seen from the vantage point of suffering and anguish.
Dickinson was a great poet of pain and suffering and growth, and spiritual regeneration through them. Her poetic feelings of such emotions are intense, trough they are sometimes hidden beneath the grab of rhetorical figures.