The Light of Darkness
The human experience demands pitfalls and darkness in order to grow and appreciate the light of life. Authors and poets control responsibility over recording these experiences that shape us and offering insight to the dark feeling that reside in all of us. Emily Dickinson saw darkness as a devouring force or a chance to learn in her poem “We Grow Accustomed to the Dark.” Robert Frost’s sonnet “Acquainted with the Night” explored walking through the darkness and accepting it as a part of life. Both Dickinson and Frost use imagery of a path to advise readers to face the dark, a message that comes across in different attitudes but ultimately teaches us that light will come eventually.
The symbolic image of a road used in both pieces allowed the poets to encourage facing the dark parts of life willingly. A road, in a broader sense, represents the path of life and how everyone has met the darkness in their journey on this path. Dickinson uses words filled with connotations of familiarity in lines 1and 3 including “accustomed,” and “Neighbor” throughout her poem as the reader walks along her on this path. This diction implies we know the darkness and Dickinson urges for us face this darkness, to “meet the road—erect,” in line 8. Similarly, Frost’s title implies this familiarity with the word “Acquainted,” as if he knows of the darkness but not as a close friend, there still remains a sense of discomfort. Frost’s sonnet acts as an extended metaphor of this path of life as he describes walking through a city, into the darkness, and back. The last couplet explains that “time was neither wrong nor right,” to convey that time to face darkness and move forward remains. Dickinson asserts that one can learn from the dark as well in the last stanza where “Life steps almost straight,” once we choose to face darkness. The two poems use the imagery of walking through the path of life as a vehicle to tell readers to face the darkness when it comes, that, like a neighbor or acquaintance, it can become bearable once known.
In conveying their message, Dickinson uses an interpersonal approach whereas Frost describes an experience in which the reader looks into from the outside. Dickinson achieved an interactive method with her relatable examples and her use of the plural first person “we” throughout the poem. She writes in line 13, “The Bravest—grope a little.” Capitalizing “Bravest” adds emphasis that signifies the people we idolize, in turn, saying that even they falter from the darkness. Her use of “we” allows her to directly tell the reader in the fourth stanza to “learn to see,” just as their role models, “The Bravest,” have. Contrastingly, Frost uses the singular first person “I” to describe the narrator’s journey through the darkness. This impersonal approach gives the sonnet a gloomier attitude compared to Dickinson’s hopeful tone that encourages learning from the darkness to move forward. Frost writes in line 10, “But not to call me back or say good bye,” to represent that the world keeps moving forward whether the individual does or not. This makes moving forward inevitable, unlike how Dickinson presents it as a choice. In the last couplet of Frost’s Shakespearian sonnet the reader sees the narrator accept this fact of inevitability. The difference in point of views reflect different attitudes through the poems as the reader either becomes a part of the journey and makes a choice or the reader watches from an outside perspective and sees the unavoidability of moving forward.
The dark ultimately helps readers resonate with both poems and acts as a motivator to learn and move forward. The image of night and darkness represents the pitfalls of humanity and the hard times all individuals face. The title of Frost’s poem “Acquainted with the Night” highlights how we can become familiar with the dark and take our time to deal with it. This repeated phrase emphasizes how, like an acquaintance, one knows the dark, the night comes every day. When he references the moon in line 12 as a “luminary clock against the sky,” it implies that light remains present, and, with time, day will come and shower one with light again. Dickinson emphasized learning from this darkness in line 17 and 18 as “either the Darkness alters—or something in the sight.” Like Frost this symbolizes that darkness will fade with time and a new light will replace it. Frost and Dickinson reference the darkness as hard times everyone goes through and how eventually the light will come to replace it.
Poets capture life to resonate with the human experience and give us a sense of comfort and motivation to move forward. By using the path of life to convey their message, although conveyed in different attitudes, both Dickinson and Frost revealed that light exists after the darkness. Thus, the audience takes away that they can learn and move forward along their own path without letting the darkness consume them. Dickinson and Frost provide a hope in moving forward through their insight on darkness.
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