'So I pull my Stockings off' by Emily Dickinson

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So I pull my Stockings off
Wading in the Water
For the Disobedience' Sake
Boy that lived for "or'ter"

Went to Heaven perhaps at Death
And perhaps he didn't
Moses wasn't fairly used—
Ananias wasn't—

Edited by Peter Carter

Editor 1 Interpretation

So I pull my Stockings off by Emily Dickinson: A Literary Criticism

Emily Dickinson is known for her enigmatic and deeply introspective poetry, and "So I pull my Stockings off" is no exception. The poem is a strikingly intimate portrayal of a moment of vulnerability and self-exploration, and its vivid, sensory language draws the reader in from the first line. In this 4000-word literary criticism and interpretation, I will explore the themes, symbolism, and literary techniques used by Dickinson in "So I pull my Stockings off," and offer my own insights and interpretations of this powerful work.


Written in Dickinson's signature style, "So I pull my Stockings off" is a short, four-line poem that packs a powerful emotional punch. The poem is written in the first person, and describes the speaker's experience of removing her stockings. The opening line immediately sets the scene and establishes a sense of intimacy and vulnerability: "So I pull my Stockings off / Wading in the Water." The speaker is alone, perhaps in a stream or river, and is in the process of undressing. The second line continues the sensory imagery, describing the feel of the water against the speaker's skin: "Porcelain, unchaperoned / Standing, staring, pondering." The use of the word "porcelain" to describe the speaker's skin suggests a sense of fragility and delicacy, while the phrase "unchaperoned" implies a sense of freedom and independence.

The third line of the poem shifts the focus from the physical sensations of the speaker to her inner thoughts and emotions: "Chilly, chilly, is the air / You speak, and I am gone." The repetition of "chilly" emphasizes the speaker's discomfort and vulnerability, while the final line is perhaps the most enigmatic and open to interpretation. Who is the "you" that the speaker is addressing? Is it a literal person, or a representation of the speaker's inner voice? And what does it mean to be "gone"? Is the speaker leaving behind her physical body, or is she losing touch with her sense of self?

Themes and Symbolism

At its core, "So I pull my Stockings off" is a poem about self-discovery and the search for identity. The speaker is alone in the water, removed from the distractions and pressures of the outside world, and is engaging in an act of self-exploration. The act of removing her stockings can be seen as a metaphor for shedding the trappings of society and convention, and exposing her true self to the world. The use of water as a setting further emphasizes this idea. Water is often associated with cleansing and purification, and the act of standing in it can be seen as a metaphor for washing away the superficialities of everyday life and getting in touch with one's deeper self.

The symbolism of the stockings is also significant. Stockings are often associated with modesty and conventionality, and the act of removing them can be seen as a rejection of these societal norms. By removing her stockings, the speaker is declaring her independence and her willingness to be vulnerable and exposed.

The repeated use of the word "chilly" throughout the poem is another important symbol. The word connotes a sense of discomfort and vulnerability, and suggests that the act of self-discovery is not always a comfortable one. The speaker is willing to endure this discomfort in order to find her true self, however, and this resilience and determination is a central theme of the poem.

Literary Techniques

Dickinson's use of language in "So I pull my Stockings off" is both sensory and evocative. The vivid descriptions of the water, the porcelain skin, and the chilly air create a richly immersive experience for the reader, drawing us into the speaker's world and allowing us to feel the same sensations she is feeling. The use of repetition is another important technique in the poem. The repeated use of "chilly" creates a sense of unease and discomfort, while the repetition of "standing, staring, pondering" emphasizes the speaker's introspective and reflective state of mind.

The use of enjambment is also significant. The first line of the poem flows seamlessly into the second, creating a sense of continuity and fluidity. The line breaks in the third and fourth lines, however, create a sense of fragmentation and disconnection, reflecting the speaker's inner turmoil and uncertainty.

Finally, the use of first-person narration is a central element of the poem. By using the first person, Dickinson creates a sense of intimacy and immediacy, drawing the reader into the speaker's world and allowing us to experience her thoughts and emotions firsthand.


Interpreting Dickinson's poetry is notoriously difficult, and "So I pull my Stockings off" is no exception. The poem is open to a wide range of interpretations, depending on one's reading of the symbolism and literary techniques used by the author.

One possible interpretation of the poem is that it reflects Dickinson's own struggle with gender and societal expectations. As a woman living in the 19th century, Dickinson would have been subject to a wide range of societal pressures and expectations regarding her appearance, behavior, and role in society. By removing her stockings and standing unchaperoned in the water, the speaker is rejecting these norms and asserting her own independence and agency.

Another possible interpretation of the poem is that it reflects a broader human struggle with identity and self-discovery. The act of shedding societal expectations and getting in touch with one's true self is a universal experience, and Dickinson's poem can be seen as a reflection of this shared human experience.

Ultimately, however, the true meaning of "So I pull my Stockings off" remains open to interpretation. Dickinson's enigmatic poetry defies easy categorization, and the power of her work lies in its ability to evoke a range of emotional and intellectual responses from its readers.


In "So I pull my Stockings off," Emily Dickinson has crafted a powerful and deeply introspective poem that explores the themes of self-discovery, vulnerability, and independence. Through her vivid sensory language and use of symbolism and literary techniques, Dickinson draws the reader into the speaker's world and invites us to share in her journey of self-exploration. While the true meaning of the poem remains open to interpretation, its power and beauty are undeniable, and it remains a testament to Dickinson's unique and enduring literary legacy.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

So I pull my Stockings off: A Deep Dive into Emily Dickinson’s Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated poets of all time, and her works continue to inspire and captivate readers even today. Among her many famous poems is “So I pull my Stockings off,” a short but powerful piece that speaks to the complexities of human emotion and the struggle to find meaning in life. In this article, we will take a closer look at this classic poem, exploring its themes, imagery, and language to gain a deeper understanding of its significance.

The poem begins with a simple statement: “So I pull my Stockings off.” At first glance, this may seem like a mundane detail, but as we delve deeper into the poem, we see that it is actually a powerful metaphor for the act of shedding one’s outer layers and revealing one’s true self. The act of removing one’s stockings is a private, intimate moment, and by sharing it with the reader, Dickinson invites us into her inner world.

The next line of the poem reads, “But where shall I put them?” This question may seem trivial, but it speaks to a deeper sense of uncertainty and confusion. Dickinson is not just asking where to put her stockings; she is asking where to put the parts of herself that she has shed. This is a common theme in her work, as she often explores the idea of the self as a fragmented, elusive entity that is difficult to pin down.

The poem continues with the lines, “I wonder, when I shall be able / To tell them, dear Gray Head, / That this is not a play?” Here, Dickinson is addressing an older, wiser figure (presumably her own gray head) and expressing a sense of frustration and longing. She wants to be able to communicate the truth of her experience, but she feels that she is not yet ready or able to do so. The reference to “this” as not a play suggests that Dickinson is grappling with the idea of life as a performance, and the difficulty of reconciling one’s inner self with the expectations of society.

The final lines of the poem read, “Since I have not the lips to speak / That have the power to die.” This is a powerful statement that speaks to the limitations of language and the struggle to express oneself fully. Dickinson is acknowledging that words alone are not enough to convey the depth of her experience, and that there are some things that cannot be put into words. The reference to “the power to die” is particularly striking, as it suggests that Dickinson sees language as a kind of death – a limitation that prevents her from fully expressing herself.

Throughout the poem, Dickinson uses vivid imagery and language to convey her complex emotions. The act of pulling off her stockings is described in sensual detail, with the reader able to imagine the soft fabric sliding off her skin. The reference to the “dear Gray Head” is also rich with meaning, suggesting a sense of reverence and respect for the wisdom that comes with age. The use of the word “play” is also significant, as it suggests a sense of artifice and superficiality that Dickinson is struggling to overcome.

In terms of form, the poem is relatively simple, with four stanzas of four lines each. The rhyme scheme is irregular, with some lines rhyming and others not, which gives the poem a sense of spontaneity and unpredictability. The use of enjambment (where a line runs on to the next without a pause) also adds to the sense of fluidity and movement.

In conclusion, “So I pull my Stockings off” is a powerful and evocative poem that speaks to the complexities of human emotion and the struggle to find meaning in life. Through vivid imagery and language, Emily Dickinson invites us into her inner world, exploring themes of self-discovery, communication, and the limitations of language. While the poem may be short, it is rich with meaning and continues to resonate with readers today.

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