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English 123 - AMERICAN LITERATURE FROM 1865 - Gamberg

Strong Theses

"The tone of the poem takes a stance that judging someone as insane can be done for reasons other than true mental stability, and the speaker is arguing against the societal norm to push aside those with ideas that vary from the set norm."

"Through her choice of words, tone, and use of irony, Dickinson criticizes and satirizes one of the biggest flaws she sees in society: allowing the majority to define normal."

"Donald Justice, the author of "Counting the Mad," criticizes mental institutions by describing them as a place with no hope and freedom."

"Through similes and metaphors, Dickinson challenges readers to reflect upon society's norms and distinguish if the standards of sanity set by others directly apply to everyone."

Proper Citations

Dickinson makes it clear that you are either one of two positions; "Assent, and you are sane / Demur,--- you're straightway dangerous" (ln. 6-7).

Lines 4 and 5 tie the opening of the poem to the ending, saying that the "majority / In this, as all, prevails."

Good Use of Text

Using the word "assent" (6) provides imagery of someone or something rising because of its closeness to the word "ascent," while serving its obvious translation of agreement.  The imagery suggests that one must rise to the surperior belief system of the majority, not simply have a lateral movement from any other possible ideas.


With the connotation of "Cloroxed white" (13) uniforms, the techs become associated with purity and cleanliness; however it also has the connotation of blandness and unpleasantness because of the stench associated with Clorox.


Dickinson utilizes words like "demur," "chains," and "dangerous," all of which carry negative or inferior connotations to them (Lines 7.8).

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