'The Soul selects her own Society' by Emily Dickinson

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The Soul selects her own Society—
Then—shuts the Door—
To her divine Majority—
Present no more—

Unmoved—she notes the Chariots—pausing—
At her low Gate—
Unmoved—an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat—

I've known her—from an ample nation—
Choose One—
Then—close the Valves of her attention—
Like Stone—

Editor 1 Interpretation

The Soul selects her own Society: A Deep Dive into Dickinson’s Classic Poem

Emily Dickinson is one of the most celebrated American poets of all time, and her works continue to inspire and captivate readers to this day. Among her most famous poems is “The Soul selects her own Society,” a piece that explores the theme of individualism and the power of choice. In this literary criticism and interpretation, we will delve into the nuances of this classic poem, examining its structure, language, and meaning.

Structure and Form

One of the first things that strike readers about this poem is its unique structure. Composed of two quatrains, the poem is written in hymn meter, a common form of poetry used in religious hymns. The hymn meter consists of four lines, with the first and third lines iambic tetrameter, and the second and fourth lines iambic trimeter. This strict form gives the poem a musical quality that adds to its powerful message.

But it’s not just the structure that’s noteworthy. The poem’s use of literary devices such as alliteration, internal rhyme, and slant rhyme also contribute to its impact. For instance, in the first line, the repetition of the ‘S’ sound in “Soul,” “selects,” and “Society” creates a smooth, flowing rhythm that draws the reader in. Similarly, the internal rhyme in “shuts the Door” and “on her divine Majority” creates a sense of completeness and finality to the first quatrain.

Language and Imagery

The language and imagery used in the poem are also worth exploring. Dickinson’s use of personification, where she attributes human qualities to non-human entities, is evident in the first line, where she portrays the soul as a decision-maker. The use of “her” instead of “its” reinforces this idea, highlighting the soul’s autonomy and agency.

Another striking image in the poem is the metaphor of the soul’s “divine Majority.” This phrase is reminiscent of democracy, where the majority rules. However, Dickinson subverts this idea by portraying the soul’s choice as a divine right, rather than a decision made by a group of people. This reinforces the idea of individualism and personal agency, as each person has the right to choose their own path in life.


So what does the poem mean, exactly? At its core, “The Soul selects her own Society” is a celebration of individualism and the power of choice. The soul, in this context, represents the individual, and her choice of society represents the decisions we make in life. Dickinson argues that these choices are ours alone to make, and that they are guided by a divine force, rather than societal pressure or external influences.

The poem can also be interpreted as a commentary on the role of religion in society. Dickinson was known for her deeply spiritual beliefs, and her poetry often grapples with themes of faith and doubt. In this poem, the soul’s choice of society can be seen as a metaphor for choosing one’s faith. By emphasizing the soul’s autonomy and divine right to choose, Dickinson may be suggesting that one’s relationship with God is a deeply personal matter, and that it should not be dictated by external forces.


In conclusion, “The Soul selects her own Society” is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that continues to resonate with readers today. Through its unique structure, use of literary devices, and imagery, the poem celebrates individualism and the power of choice, while also touching on deeper themes of faith and personal agency. It is no wonder that Emily Dickinson remains one of the most beloved and revered poets of all time, and this poem is a shining example of her talent and skill.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

The Soul selects her own Society is a classic poem written by Emily Dickinson, one of the most celebrated poets of the 19th century. This poem is a masterpiece of Dickinson's unique style, which is characterized by its brevity, wit, and profound insights into the human condition. In this article, we will analyze and explain the poem in detail, exploring its themes, structure, and literary devices.

The poem begins with the line "The Soul selects her own Society," which immediately sets the tone for the rest of the poem. The word "soul" suggests a spiritual or metaphysical dimension, while "society" implies a social or communal aspect. The juxtaposition of these two words creates a tension between the individual and the collective, between the inner and outer worlds.

The second line of the poem, "Then shuts the Door," reinforces this tension by suggesting that the soul is selective and exclusive in its choices. The act of shutting the door implies a deliberate and conscious decision, a rejection of certain people or groups in favor of others. This line also suggests that the soul is autonomous and independent, capable of making its own choices and setting its own boundaries.

The third line of the poem, "On her divine Majority," introduces the idea of divine authority or sovereignty. The word "majority" suggests a position of power or dominance, while "divine" implies a higher or transcendent source of authority. This line suggests that the soul's choices are not arbitrary or capricious, but rather guided by a higher purpose or principle.

The fourth line of the poem, "Obtrude no more," reinforces the idea of exclusivity and selectivity. The word "obtrude" suggests an unwanted or intrusive presence, while "no more" implies a previous intrusion or imposition. This line suggests that the soul has a clear sense of its own boundaries and is not willing to compromise or accommodate others who do not share its values or vision.

The fifth line of the poem, "Unmoved, she notes the Chariots," introduces a new image and metaphor. The word "chariots" suggests a powerful and majestic mode of transportation, while "unmoved" implies a sense of detachment or indifference. This line suggests that the soul is not swayed or influenced by external factors such as wealth, power, or status, but rather remains steadfast in its own convictions and values.

The sixth line of the poem, "pausing," introduces a moment of reflection or contemplation. The word "pausing" suggests a deliberate and intentional act, a moment of stillness or silence in which the soul can reflect on its choices and values. This line suggests that the soul is not impulsive or rash in its decisions, but rather takes the time to consider and weigh its options.

The seventh line of the poem, "At her low Gate," introduces a new image and metaphor. The word "gate" suggests a threshold or boundary, while "low" implies a sense of humility or modesty. This line suggests that the soul's boundaries are not grand or imposing, but rather simple and unassuming. The image of the low gate also suggests that the soul is accessible and approachable, but only to those who share its values and vision.

The eighth line of the poem, "With her small - Request," reinforces the idea of humility and modesty. The word "small" suggests a sense of proportion or perspective, while "request" implies a sense of deference or respect. This line suggests that the soul does not demand or expect too much from others, but rather seeks only what is necessary or essential.

The ninth line of the poem, "And - opens - and - closes - " introduces a new image and metaphor. The repetition of the phrase "and - opens - and - closes - " suggests a rhythmic and cyclical pattern, a sense of continuity or repetition. This line suggests that the soul's choices and boundaries are not fixed or static, but rather dynamic and fluid, constantly opening and closing in response to changing circumstances or situations.

The final line of the poem, "The One - who - knows - " introduces a sense of mystery and ambiguity. The phrase "The One" suggests a sense of singularity or uniqueness, while "who knows" implies a sense of knowledge or understanding. This line suggests that the soul's choices and boundaries are not easily understood or explained, but rather require a deeper level of insight or intuition.

In terms of structure, the poem consists of nine lines, each with a varying number of syllables and a distinct rhythm and meter. The poem is written in free verse, which allows Dickinson to experiment with different forms and structures without being constrained by traditional poetic conventions.

In terms of literary devices, the poem employs a number of techniques to create its unique style and tone. These include metaphor, imagery, repetition, and paradox. The use of metaphor and imagery creates vivid and evocative images that convey the poem's themes and ideas. The repetition of certain phrases and words creates a sense of rhythm and pattern, while also emphasizing certain ideas and concepts. The use of paradox creates a sense of tension and ambiguity, forcing the reader to consider multiple meanings and interpretations.

In conclusion, The Soul selects her own Society is a classic poem that explores the tension between the individual and the collective, the inner and outer worlds. Through its use of metaphor, imagery, repetition, and paradox, the poem creates a unique style and tone that conveys its themes and ideas with brevity and wit. The poem's structure and literary devices also contribute to its overall impact and effectiveness. As one of Emily Dickinson's most celebrated works, The Soul selects her own Society continues to inspire and challenge readers to this day.

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