The Role of 19th Century Women's Rights in Dickinson and Poe's poetry.
Poetry is rightfully often associated with national identity and serves as a substantial tool for understanding the larger culture of its time. As such, most American poets shape their work both in response to and in order to influence the larger culture of America and in doing so, give voice to a variety of American experiences. Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe, in their poetry, represent two different modes of understanding the larger culture of America in the mid 1800's. Dickinson's poetry is often based on, or a direct response to a larger historical and cultural phenomenon of her time, in particular relating to women. Poe, an obscure figure in 19th century American poetry, does depict certain experiences of American life in his poetry, however it is often not his intent to do so. Greatly influenced by the binding "cult of domesticity," Dickinson outright rejects the role of women within it and her writing serves as a symbolic act of rebellion to the inequalities of women in her time. Poe shapes his work with an idealist hope that its product will provide him with happiness in a world that has subjected him to much suffering and is only representative of the larger culture of America in its reflections of other forms of American suffering at the time, particularly to women.
Poe's work is often overlooked as a useful tool in understanding the more general American experience as many of his poems are explicitly about his grave desire for the return of his dead beloved wife. It is in reading his sad yet hopeful poems that "speak to an unappeasable yearning for tangible security, acceptance, and happiness" (Axelrod 298) that one can see a reflection of women's experiences of the time that shared similar yearnings but for different desires. Dickinson, complex and starkly conscious of the betrayal of women in society, through her poetry, embodies self-doubt and the agonies of spirit.