The Theme Of Sexuality In Dickinson’s Works

While reading Emily Dickinson’s poetry, many people are left wondering: Was Emily Dickinson bisexual or lesbian? It is difficult to say for sure, but the evidence is overwhelming that she might have been attracted to women. The many references she makes to the women in her personal life are often seen from a lesbian perspective. There are several lines in Dickinson’s poems that make the reader believe she is romantically describing her relationships with different women. Emily Dickinson’s writings provide evidence that she was gay or bisexual.

Emily Dickinson often leaves her poetry untitled. The first line is used to refer to the poem. Many of the lines in the poem “TellHer – The page I Never Wrote!” are queer. The poem is unmistakably about love, as she refers to “her” in the poem. She is expressing that she hasn’t been able to find the right words to express her feelings. It’s likely that the pronoun here would be “she”, or “her”, while the verb might be “love,” or even just “lust.” In her time, however, there were no words for love. This was never even considered. The poem “Her Breast was Fit for Pearls” is more evident. She says “Her chest was fit for a pearl, but I was no “Diver “…”. Her sentiment is that the woman does not deserve everything. Because women could only marry one another in the past, she was unable to have a legitimate relationship or even to marry her. She thinks that the woman deserves everything, but knows that it is impossible to give her all because she’s not a man. She refers to a woman’s “perennial home” as if it were a place that she returns to repeatedly. This could be a metaphorical or literal statement. She may feel at home because they are so close, or wish she could live with them so she could always be with them.

There are also many queer elements in “To See Her as a Picture”. Interesting line: “To see her is a picture / As innocent June …”. Intemperance refers to indulgence and a lack control. The word is then used to describe innocence. It may seem contradictory, but there is some logic to it. She feels she lacks restraint. And she believes it is intemperate to try and “know” the other person. If she acts on her feelings (if it is possible), she may think that she has done nothing wrong. Even if it was a physical relationship, she would likely see it as an intimate friendship. She would control her unmoderate thoughts if she admired the woman from a distance. It is possible to be innocent and intemperate at the same time.

These poems are very similar and could easily be compiled into one long poem. Emily’s longing for her subject is evident in all three of these poems. She says at the end of her third poem “which never receive, / mocks melody / it might have been to life.” This line is very powerful because she’s saying that without her, life seems pointless. If she had been a male, she’d be with her. And life would feel like a beautiful song. The “mockery melody” could be interpreted as a mockery, and if the woman tried to love her, it would be ridiculed, because she is not male. Her poems will resonate with anyone who’s ever experienced a “forbidden romance” in the same way she did.

Susan, Emily Dickinson’s in-law sister, was always the subject of her writings. Many academics now agree that Dickinson wanted to be more close with Susan, and even have a romance with her. This poem was written by a woman who described nature as mysterious to her. She wondered how other people could be so close with nature. In earlier versions of the poem, “nature” had been replaced by “Susan,” a clear indication that she loved her. She wants to be near Susan but is not allowed because it’s forbidden. It then takes on an entirely new meaning.

A poem entitled “To have a Susan for myself” also shows her longing to possess Susan.

Is in and of itself bliss –/ Whatever Realm I lose, Lord / Continue Me In This!” The meaning of the poem becomes more apparent when she states that it would be nice to have Susan all her own, or Susan that was hers alone, not belonging to a guy. This line is particularly interesting because it brings up the idea that people thought that a man would marry a woman “as God intended”. She basically says that she doesn’t care if she loses her right to heaven or even God’s acceptance or love. The poem is about the value of betraying God to enjoy Susan’s bliss.

Lillian Faderman states in Emily Dickinson’s letters to Sue Gilbert that there are forty Emily Dickinson love poems. The reader can tell by reading these poems that Emily Dickinson loved Susan Gilbert and probably other women too. No one knows if she ever took action on her feelings. In fact, it’s unlikely she did given the time she lived. However, feelings are just important as actions in love. This love was taboo to her and kept secret. However her poetry reveals that it was the same as anyone else’s. She wrote romantically about women as deeply and intimately as she did about men. Sometimes, it was even more. She often compares what she loves about men and women, but her love towards women is always more intense.

These and other evidences are found by many scholars when they analyze the poetry written by Emily Dickinson. There is evidence to suggest that Emily Dickinson was gay or bisexual at various times. However, she also loved women. Because of this, it’s likely she was bisexual. After discovering her gay themes, many people were delighted to find a poet who was a well-respected genius to look up and to whom they could relate. She has written about queer topics that have helped many, and even increased her fame amongst lesbians. It has been used in classes on queer theory and books detailing her suspected sexual relationships with females have also been written. This topic has received much attention and it’s well deserved.

There is no right or wrong way to interpret poetry, but you can often find the hidden meaning more easily than you would expect. Emily Dickinson’s poetry has many queer topics, and some are in the background. However, there is also a lot that is out in the open. The reason why this was not raised initially could be because at the time of Emily Dickinson, there was no term for bisexuality or homosexuality. The people may have ignored these incidents because initially they appeared to concern friendship or her wish to be a boy. But with more analysis, it is clear that this woman is only expressing desire to turn into a guy because in society it is acceptable to have a girl as a partner.


  • ewanpatel

    I'm a 29-year-old educational bloger and teacher. I have been writing about education for about six years, and I have a B.A. in English from UC Santa Cruz. I also have a M.A. in English from San Francisco State University. I teach high school English in the Bay Area.