Tell all the Truth but Tell it Slant

Tell all the Truth but Tell it Slant

 by Emily Dickinson

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —

Summary of Tell all the Truth but Tell it Slant

  • Popularity of “Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant”: This poem was written by Emily Dickinson, a great American poet. Tell all the Truth but Tell it Slant is about the acceptance of the truth. It was first published in 1890 in her collection, Complete Poems. It speaks about the importance of truth in life. It also illustrates how we should tell the truth. According to the poet, the best way to reveal the truth is told according to the point of view of the listener.
  • “Tell all the Truth but Tell it Slant” As a Representative of Human Nature: This poem is about the fragile nature of human beings. The poem begins with instruction. The speaker says that we should tell the truth, but not directly. We should say it subtly because human beings are not ready to accept the realities at first. They need time to accept the facts and act accordingly. Hence, the speaker suggests that the truth must be told in parts so that they can digest it easily. To her, human delight is not strong. They cannot tackle the hard blow of complete truth. To avoid shock, one must systematically convey the truth. As the poem continues, she compares truth with lightning, which frightens the children. In the same way, a complete truth can cast a negative impact on humans. The poet highlights the weak sides of human nature.
  • Major Themes in “Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant”: Truth, acceptance and human nature are the central themes of this poem. The speaker beautifully highlights the weak sides of human nature. Throughout the poem, she tries to state that human beings are not strong to take some of the truths of life. The shock of complete truth can affect the normal pace of their lives. She argues that complete truth makes people blind, just like lightning dazzles small children. However, to lessen the effect of shock, the indirect presentation of it would be the best choice, unless one is ready to accept it fully. The speaker does not tell the reader to tell a lie, but instead to reveal the truth gently.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant”

Literary devices are very important elements of a literary text. They bring richness to the text and also make the readers understand the hidden meanings. Emily Dickinson has also made this poem superb by using figurative language. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in “Success in Circuit lies”.
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /t/ in “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”.
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. The words “the truth” is repeated in the poem to emphasize. For example,

“The Truth must dazzle” and “The Truth’s superb surprise.”

  1. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Too bright for our infirm Delight” and “Or every man be blind.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects different in nature. For example, “As Lightning to the Children eased.” Here the truth is compared to lightning.
  3. Oxymoron: It is a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunctions. For example, “The Truth must dazzle gradually.” Here the dazzled gradually presents the powerful impact of truth.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meanings. Here, “truth” symbolizes fear.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant”

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

  1. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here, both stanzas are quatrain.
  2. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are only two stanzas in this poem, each having an equal number of verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful for children to make them understand the proper way of conveying the truth to others.

The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind.”