There’s a Certain Slant of Light

There’s a Certain Slant of Light

by Emily Dickinson

There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes –

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –
We can find no scar,
But internal difference –
Where the Meanings, are –

None may teach it – Any –
‘Tis the seal Despair –
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air –

When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance
On the look of Death –

Summary of There’s a Certain Slant of Light

  • Popularity of “There’s a Certain Slant of Light”: Emily Dickinson, a great American poet wrote ‘There’s a Certain Slant of Light’. It is a thought-provoking poem about death. The poem speaks about the heavenly light that adds more to the injuries of our doleful hearts. It also illustrates how nature plays a role in our life.
  • “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” As a Representative of Death: This poem is an expression of sorrow. The poem begins with the description of winter nights when the poet feels a certain “slant of light.” She hears the oppressive sounds of church bells that add more to her sorrow in her life but do not leave any external scar. Rather, it changes her from inside. Surprisingly, none may be able to explain it. She considers that light a mark of hopelessness and a pinching experience inflicted by the supreme authority. Though it comes through the air particles, yet every object of nature pays attention to it such as the landscape listens to it and shadows hold their breaths. When the light disappears, the same nature looks like a dead person.
  • Major Themes in “There’s a Certain Slant of Light”: Nature, death, and experiences of life are the major themes underlined in this poem. The poem centers on a specific light that enlightens everything in nature. It weighs heavily upon our hearts just like the heart-wrenching church bells. Throughout the poem, the speaker tries to understand the meaning of the world around her. She tries to explain that oppression of understanding links with spirituality.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “There’s a Certain Slant of Light”

Literary devices are tools that enable the writers to enhance the texts and help the readers understand the hidden meanings. Emily Dickinson has employed some literary devices in this poem to bring depth to her text. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been given below.

  1. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, “when it” is repeated in the last stanza of the poem to emphasize the point.

“When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath –
When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance
On the look of Death.”

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /ee/ in “’Tis the seal Despair”.
  2. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /l/ in “An imperial affliction”.
  3. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /h/ in “Heavenly Hurt, it gives us –” and the sound of /l/ in “When it comes, the Landscape listens.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,

“There’s a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons –
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes.”

  1. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. For example, nature is personified in the ending lines of the poem,

“When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath.”

  1. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. “Light” symbolizes spirituality.
  2. Simile: It is a figure of speech used to compare a person or an object with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. The poet has used this device in the first stanza of the poem such as;

“That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “There’s a Certain Slant of Light”

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. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “despair/air”, “breath/death” and “scar/are.”
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here, each stanza is a quatrain.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme and this pattern continues till the end.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. The poem comprises four stanzas having the same number of verses in it.
  5. Trochee: Trochee means there is a one stressed and one unstressed syllable in a line as given in the next point.
  6. Stressed and Unstressed Syllables: These two types of syllables are used in trochee such as the first is stressed and second is an unstressed syllable in “There’s a Certain Slant of Light” and this pattern continues throughout the poem.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful when talking about the unique characteristics of nature that responds to the one who considers it his/her companion.

“When it comes, the Landscape listens –
Shadows – hold their breath.”