By Emily Dickinson

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know!

How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog—
To tell one’s name—the livelong June—
To an admiring Bog!

Meanings of I’M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU?

This short poem comprising just eight verses and two stanzas, presents a speaker who seems to have a silent interlocutor. It seems that the speaker creates a binary of nobody and somebody to argue the case of having privacy instead of a boring public life. The main idea of the poem is this binary of nobody and somebody with privacy and public life, respectively.

Meanings of Lines 1-4

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise – you know!

Emily Dickinson poses a question to her interlocutor after becoming a speaker in this poem herself. The question is whether the interlocutor is also a nobody like her. This humble question-answer leads to her realization that now they are two and she advises the anonymous interlocutor to hold his/her tongue and not to disclose the fact about their being nobody. By advertising, she means that the interlocutor should not disclose the fact that both are humble “nobody.” This stanza contributes to the overall main idea of binary and humility through the inclusion of both persons in one perception of being “nobody.”

Meanings of Lines 5-8

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

In these lines, Emily Dickinson reiterates that if they are nobody, it means being “Somebody” means dreary, dull, and boring as it snatches privacy. They become public figures like “Frog” or spell out their names. This is akin to making the noise a frog makes in a swamp during the rainy season. It means they join the public discourse. This binary of nobody and somebody has its own disadvantages, as being somebody means joining the public, while being nobody means protecting one’s privacy. This stanza contributes to the main idea of the poem that being nobody means humility which brings privacy while being somebody means egotism and exposure to the public.


  • Popularity of “I’M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU?”: Emily Dickinson, a great American poet, wrote ‘I’M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU?’. It is an ironic poem famous on account of its theme of privacy. It was first published in 1891. The poem revolves around the idea of self-identity and its definition in the speaker’s eye. It illustrates her intentions that she wants to be an unnamed and unfamed person in society. The poem especially talks about the introverted approach of mankind.
  • Summary of “I’M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU?” An Exploration of Self-identity: This short poem speaks about the idea of a persona or a person’s identity. The poem begins with a paradoxical statement. The speaker claims that she is nobody and asks the readers if they possess the same nonentity concept about themselves. Then she advises them to expose themselves publicly because people love to publicize others, constituting stories based on their understanding. In the second stanza, she compares people who long for fame and publicity with frogs that crock to advertise themselves. The poem explains that the more private approach you adopt toward life, the happier and more peaceful your life will be.
  • Major Themes in “I’M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU?”: Isolation, privacy, and distinct identity are the major themes of the poem. The speaker introduces herself as nobody, and later provides reasons for her ironic statement. To her, publicity and fame bring challenges to a person longing for them. On the contrary, an introverted person avoids unnecessary involvement of people as well as their criticism. Thus maintaining their sanity and peace.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “I’M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU?”

literary devices are tools that writers use to present their unique ideas. Emily Dickinson also used some literary devices in this text to enhance its intended impact. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem is given below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /oo/ in “Are you—Nobody—Too”.
  2. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, “How” is repeated in the first stanza of the poem to emphasize the point.

“How dreary—to be—Somebody!
How public—like a Frog.”

  1. Hyperbole: Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate any statement for the sake of emphasis. For example, in the following verse, “Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know” the poet exaggerates about being nobody.
  2. Irony: Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning of the words. For example, in the opening lines of the poem, the poet introduces herself as nobody,

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too?”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Emily Dickinson has used imagery in this poem, such as “Then there’s a pair of us”, “To an admiring Bog” and “How public—like a Frog.”
  2. Oxymoron: It is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunctions. For example, the first two lines of the poem, “I’m Nobody! Who are you?/Are you—Nobody—Too?”. Here, nobody refers to the speaker that she does not want to be known.
  3. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. The poet has personified bog in the last line of the poem, such as; “To an admiring Bog.”
  4. Rhetorical Question: Rhetorical question is a question that is not asked in order to receive an answer; it is just posed to make the point clear. For example,

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too??”

  1. Simile: It is a device Used to compare something with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. Emily used this device in the second line of the second stanza, such as “How public—like a Frog.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “I’M NOBODY! WHO ARE YOU?”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “You/too”, and “frog/bog.”
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is quatrain.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows an ABAB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues till the end.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are two stanzas in this poem, with each comprised of four lines.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are appropriate to be quoted as an example while talking about the strange social norms of rumor-mongering.

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you—Nobody—Too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d advertise—you know.”