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Analysis of Emily Dickinson's Poem 202 (185) "Faith is a fine invention"

Analysis of Emily Dickinson's 202 (185) faith is a fine invention


Emily Dickinson's poem "202 (185)" was originally sent to Samuel Bowles in a letter that is often referred to as Letter 220. Samuel Bowles became the publisher and editor of the newspaper Springfield Republican in 1844 and held that position until he died in 1878. He was also a close friend of Emily and her family, and participated in a long-standing correspondence with Emily. In Letter 220, Emily asks Mr. Bowles to reconsider his refusal to publish her poems in his newspaper. Apparently Mr. Bowles had suggested that she submit some of her poems to New York publishers instead.

Dickinson begins by saying that "faith is a fine invention for gentlemen who see;" this line is very sarcastic. Having faith in something means not giving up on it or to retain hope that one day you will get what you want; Mr. Bowles wants her to have faith that there is a publisher out there who will want to publish her poems. She calls faith an "invention" (a false conception), because it is often used as a tool by those who don't want to hurt the feelings of another; Mr. Bowles is her friend and he wants to stay friends with her, so he tells her to have faith rather than risk hurting her feelings. "Gentlemen" refers to the publishers of the East; at this time, a publisher was mostly, if not solely, a male profession. Dickinson realizes that her poetry is not always easily understandable, but she believes that there is at least one person out there who can "see" the brilliance of her poetry and want to publish her. She also believes that the person that should publish her work is Mr. Bowles, not the "Gentlemen" of the East, because she doesn't think that they will be able to see the quality of her work. This first sentence also reminds us that female writers were not always valued, and their work often got overlooked simply because they were female. Mr. Bowles and Emily already have a relationship built upon respect, so it makes sense that she would rather have her work published by him and not someone who would compromise her vision.

She wants Mr. Bowles to reconsider publishing her poems, which why she tells him to use a microscope. A microscope will allow him to look more closely at her poems, so that he can appreciate just how good they are. Publishing her poems is the emergency, and it would be "prudent" (sensible) of him to use a microscope so that he can hurry up and realize their worth.




Sources

Samuel Bowles info: http://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/ed/node/121

Dickinson, Emily. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. Ed. R. W. Franklin. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1998.

Published on December 5, 2012 by Sophia Brookshire © All Rights Reserved

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