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I died for beauty but was scarce Analysis



Author: Poetry of Emily Dickinson Type: Poetry Views: 3780





I died for beauty but was scarce

Adjusted in the tomb,

When one who died for truth was lain

In an adjoining room.



He questioned softly why I failed?

"For beauty," I replied.

"And I for truth,--the two are one;

We brethren are," he said.



And so, as kinsmen met a night,

We talked between the rooms,

Until the moss had reached our lips,

And covered up our names.










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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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I think it means that:
I DIED for beauty, but was scarce
Adjusted in the tomb,
When one who died for truth was lain
In an adjoining room.

He questioned softly why I failed?
“For beauty,” I replied.
“And I for truth,—the two are one;
We brethren are,” he said.

And so, as kinsmen met a night,
We talked between the rooms,
Until the moss had reached our lips,
And covered up our names

| Posted on 2012-03-07 | by a guest


.: :.

Though I have not put a very extensive amount of effort into analyzing this poem, I would just like to add that, while reading Aldous Huxley\'s \"Brave New World,\" I came across a passage in which Mustapha Mond says\"
\"People were ready to have even their appetites controlled then. Anything for a quiet life. We\'ve gone on controlling ever since. It hasn\'t been very good for truth, of course. But it\'s been very good for happiness. One can\'t have something for nothing. Happiness has got to be paid for. You\'re paying for it, Mr. Watson–paying because you happen to be too much interested in beauty. I was too much interested in truth; I paid too.\"
Perhaps this may be a clear reference to this poem by Huxley, and maybe his personal interpretation is hidden in Brave New World, or maybe its just coincidence.

| Posted on 2011-01-09 | by a guest


.: :.

shes talking about jesus being next to her because she gave up everything in her life (ex: a husband and family) to write poetry that she thought was beautiful. noone seems to understand except jesus. he questions her to ask Why? and she simply says because she loves what shes doing.

| Posted on 2011-01-05 | by a guest


.: :.

I think the meaning of this poem is the author felt that because she was only ever trying to be beautiful she tried all her life till she died, and she feels that she never acheaved her goal. This to her is failure in her mind However when she dies because of the man of truth saying that he chased the truth his entire life to no avail she realizes that this is life and in the end it doesn\'t matter because we all end up in the same place doing the same thing for the rest of eternity, and eventually are forgotten.

| Posted on 2010-09-20 | by a guest


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Hi there All,
Let\'s look at this poem in the light of a deceased woman who is searching at the very last moment for meaning in her life. She is laid to rest...but her spirit is still alive and talks to a man who is also just arrived in the tomb. They converse. The most poinient and tear-jerking words in the poem are how these two people talk together in the tomb....until moss reaches their lips.
Look at things for what they are.

| Posted on 2010-08-21 | by a guest


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"The new character is extremely socially acceptable, yet the narrator, who died an outcast, is not."
In this interpretation, surely it would be the narrator who was "socially accpetable"? In society, past and present, those who conform and those who seek "beauty" are generally more accepted than those who seek "truth".

| Posted on 2010-07-18 | by a guest


.: :.

I have read nearly every analysis of this poem. You all offer such diverse points of view; each one more interesting than the other. I do not know who has the "correct" interpretation; it does not matter. You all have given me mental fodder as I regard purpose and the ash grove. Thank you

| Posted on 2010-06-04 | by a guest


.: :.

to the one posted on 2010-04-06, you misread the line. the word scarce is not referring to her beauty. scarce means, in small amount, or, very little. the first two lines should be read as one but have just been separated by the poet. it would not make sense for the second line to read 'adjusted in the tomb'. so, actually it means that the girl who died for beauty was hardly adjusted in her tomb before she was joined by the man who died for truth.

| Posted on 2010-04-14 | by a guest


.: :.

I agree with the other guests. The are two people in there grave talking about how they died. One died for truth, but the other, the narrator, died for her beauty of which she did not really have "But was scarce".

| Posted on 2010-04-06 | by a guest


.: :.

wat stupid moderator didnt moderate the post calling the moderator stupid??? lol

| Posted on 2009-10-24 | by a guest


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what stupid moderator didnt moderate the spam post repeating NOOB! over and over again?

| Posted on 2009-10-23 | by a guest


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"We brethren are" is beauty and truth. There is beauty in truth and also truth in beauty. They possibly both fail because they canceled each other out. Or, they fail because when you die, the truth goes with you and so does your beauty.

| Posted on 2009-09-16 | by a guest


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NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB NOOB
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| Posted on 2008-11-20 | by a guest


.: :.

this poem is about the act of writing itself
she has dedicated her life to 'beauty' ie poetry
but she wonders whether nay of it is worth it
the 'moss covers up their names' and they are soon forgotten by history
she has 'failed' in the afterlife as well as in her current life

| Posted on 2008-10-30 | by a guest


.: :.

The two persons involved in the poem love each other but only one is brave to reveal the truth. Conversely, the the other one (narrator) is fearful to show her true emotion because she should conform to the rules and norms of the society. When both depart this world, they have conversation and express the causes of their deaths or the goals of their living.
The word "failed" suggests that the narrator is not completely happy because she does not follow her heart. She believes that beauty in the eyes of the people is more important than her affection for the man who is believed to be her brother or cousin or any family member. This shocking claim is supported by the lines, "the two are one" and "We brethren are."
Moreover, the lines that follow reinforce the main point of this analysis. Th reason is that the "moss" has reached their lips and has covered their names . As a result, they can no longer express the love that they feel.

| Posted on 2008-07-21 | by a guest


.: thruth and beauty :.

this is a good poem-- i like it for many things it has; eg it tells us that some people have cause in mind and they fight and strive to achieve and yet they might diein the process. After thei death these people are supposed to linger in the minds of those they sacrifice their life for. however, they are gone neglected and no body mentions their names as if they did nothing for the sake of humanity. Beauty and Truth for Emily are twins and are nice causes to die for. What she warns here from is the fact that tese things should not be fought by some people merely for the sake of fame and reputation: if it is so, then these people will nt be respected by later generations as their intentions were not purely for the sake of the nation or the society. Like Keats, Dickenson did not find muh difference between truth and beauty.


| Posted on 2007-10-29 | by a guest


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1. I think that they were both murdered, because "adjusted" and "was lain" both suggest that someone else put them there.
2. It strange how the last line doesn't rhyme, but I think it gives the feel that the poem degenerates at the end. At first they are strong and dying for their causes, but by the end all is forgotten.
3. Neither of them are too upset with being dead, they seem satisfied with their sacrifice. Even though they were eventually forgotten by others, it seems they were fighting for themselves too.

I used this poem for a project in 8th grade, and I still remember the whole thing and I am in 12th! Very catchy.

Word to the second person that commented.

| Posted on 2007-09-05 | by a guest


.: :.

The poem “I died for Beauty—but was scarce”, is about two dead people having a conversation about their previous lives. One of them died for truth, one of them died for beauty. They talk and at the end of the poem, moss comes and covers up the names on the tombs. “I died for Beauty—but was scarce”, by Emily Dickinson is a poem about death and man’s insignificance over the course of time.

“I died for Beauty—but was scarce
Adjusted in the Tomb
When One who died for Truth, was lain
In an adjoining Room—”

Set in a tomb, the first stanza opens up the poem introducing two different characters, both of whom are dead. The first person introduced is the narrator who has died a recluse, and did not conform to society when she was alive. This is seen in the first line, the word “scarce” which means to be absent or elusive. Clearly the narrator was scarce in her life and when she died, all her non-conformity was ignored, and in line two, she was “Adjusted in the Tomb”. Adjusted can mean: to adapt or conform. Simply being buried in a tomb is an epitome of societal conformation. This is just part of the death theme, and man’s insignificance because after a lifetime of recluse, it only takes her death for her to conform; or, perhaps, made to be conformed.
The second half of the first stanza introduces and quickly describes a new character, immediately naming him “One who died for Truth”. The narrator introduces the new character with a more honorable tone, using less harsh and more eloquent vocabulary. The tone seems slightly softer as if the narrator feels that this person died for a good cause, unlike themselves. Yet, the insignificance shows through when the two dead characters, seemingly unequal in the narrator’s view, are placed in adjoining rooms, separated, and yet still on the same level. Clearly the theme of death is still apparent in this second half of the stanza, and the insignificance of man is more apparent as well.

“He questioned softly ‘Why I failed?’
‘For Beauty,’ I replied—
‘And I—for Truth—Themself are One—
We Bretheren, are,’ He said—”

In the second stanza, the two characters speak together and tell their story of how they died. The first line shows a bit of good tone to the One who died for Truth, as he softly asks the narrator a curious question. The question, “Why I failed?” is very important because of the word choice. The fact that both of them did not succeed in their lives at the goals that they were trying to finish. Towards the end of the conversation, the One who died for Truth tells the narrator that both their causes are the same after death, and that they have that in common. This is an interesting point that the One who died for Truth makes, and it once again furthers the idea that after death, what was done on Earth was insignificant and that all causes one dies for in the end are the same.

“And so, as Kinsmen, met at Night—
We talked between the Rooms—
Until the Moss had reached our lips—
And covered up—our names—”

The third stanza is really overall, the most clear and apparent to the theme of man’s insignificance. Starting from the top, the two characters have established that they are equals; brethren and kinsmen. The word choice in the first line is also very important in the final stanza. In the quote, “…met at Night” night is used as a metaphor and represents death, furthering the theme. The second line also houses a metaphor; the Rooms. Discussed in the beginning of the poem, the rooms are a metaphor for social classes and acceptance. The narrator is placed in one room, and the One who died for Truth is placed in another. From the slight change in tone to the very character name, the new person seems to almost have died a hero. The new character is extremely socially acceptable, yet the narrator, who died an outcast, is not. The talking between rooms shows that after death, societal boundaries are no longer as eminent as in life.
Finally, the third and fourth lines are probably the most vivid and easily-imagined pictures in the poem, and really set in stone the theme. The moss comes, and with its growth, the passing of large amounts of time is inferred. On the final line, the insignificance of man really hits a high note, and clearly the narrator is saying that over time, memories of people lost are slowly overgrown and forgotten. It doesn’t matter whether or not you are a great person or just a recluse; in death everyone is equal and equally forgotten.
Overall, I really liked this poem. I thought that it really hit home some valid points, about death and how people can be forgotten after they are gone. Aside from that, however, I felt that Dickinson was also trying to say that she didn’t like how people are forgotten, and though she may like the equality of it all, she doesn’t want people to be forgotten, but I think that in time, it doesn’t matter who you are, you’re probably going to be lost.

| Posted on 2006-01-25 | by Approved Guest


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Both speakers die "for" either beauty or truth. The primary meaning of "for" is "in the cause of." It has a secondary meaning, which is "to achieve" or "to have as a goal." Which meaning is appropriate here, or can both be meant?

Dickinson associates beauty and truth in this poem. The speakers' deaths are described in parallel language; they are buried in "adjoining" rooms and are "brethren" and "kinsmen." These descriptions also make clear that they are not identical; otherwise they would be buried in the same room and be twins.

The ending is subtly prepared for with the question "why I failed?" The crucial word is "failed," rather than "died." Their deaths and any hopes of succeeding in their goals are futile. The moss covers their lips and their names on the grave marker; death has ended all communication and effectiveness. With this image Dickinson shows the powerlessness of the human condition and the relentless indifference of nature to human beings, who are obliterated at death. The speakers are never named; they are anonymous. Is it ironic that the only life in the poem is the moss?

| Posted on 2005-12-12 | by Approved Guest


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This talks about finding things in common with someojne in the least likely of places. This also talks about beauty, and truth. Beauty wasn't worth dieing for. And personally, I think this is a great thing for teenagers like myself to read. It teaches us that beauty is only skin deep, or whatever. It also says that truth and beauty are kin. That's an intresting way of looking at things, don't you think? Maybe she's onto something. She seems to be trying to teach us something she may have already learned. Beauty is everywhere, and just becasue you don'tee it on your self. That doesn't mean it isn't there. I mean most wouldn't have bothered to get along with the man who died for truth.

| Posted on 2004-10-20 | by camoflage




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