I Am Nobody! Who are You?

By Emily Dickinson
analysis using formalism theory.

I’m nobody! Who are you?


            For us to efficiently discuss this poem using the formalism theory, let’s first see what FORMALISM generally means.

            FORMALISM is a type of literary theory, which suggests that literary pieces be read and analyzed as is. No socio-political backgrounds of the author, no era exceptions, no historical context backgrounds. Formalism theory proposes that we look into the words as they are, dig deep to their meanings and find relational clues in the context.

            Now we are ready to go. I’m nobody! Who are you? By Emily Dickinson may be analyzed through other literary theories. As for this assignment’s concerns we will focus on Formal Criticism.

            The poem is very straightforward.


I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us — don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog

            In the first stanza, the persona is declaring himself as a nobody, happily. As we see, there is a very joyous tone, accompanied by the exclamation point. Then the persona meets another Nobody. Upon absorbing this thought the persona told the other nobody to keep their anonymity a secret. In this part, the persona says,  “Don’t tell! / They ‘d banish us, you know.” She understands that once you have another “nobody” who knows you, you aren’t really a “nobody” at all.

            The persona finds pleasure in being a nobody. Clearly stated in the poem, she regarded being SOMEBODY as being dreary, lifeless and boring in other words. At the last stanza was a simile between a somebody and frog croaking to a bog all day long. What does this mean? Applying Formalism, let’s dig deep. A bog is the environment of the frog. Even if the frog loses his throat for croaking all day long, the bog won’t really care. Just like a popular human being, always admired by the public. However, usually, this type of admiration stops then and there. There is no deeper and real connection built. Being somebody, you would always need to be that somebody everyone expects. You won’t really have the liberty of being YOU. That is why, the persona in the poem is pretty much contented with being not just a nobody, but, a nobody. 

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1 Comment
  1. edgar
    Posted October 30, 2010 at 11:16 pm


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