''Tis Opposites—entice' by Emily Dickinson

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'Tis Opposites—entice—
Deformed Men—ponder Grace—
Bright fires—the Blanketless—
The Lost—Day's face—

The Blind—esteem it be
Enough Estate—to see—
The Captive—strangles new—
For deeming—Beggars—play—

To lack—enamor Thee—
Tho' the Divinity—
Be only

Editor 1 Interpretation

"Tis Opposites—entice" by Emily Dickinson: A Sublime Exploration of Dichotomy and Desire


Emily Dickinson's "Tis Opposites—entice" is a fascinating poem that explores the allure of opposites, the tension between attraction and repulsion, and the paradoxical nature of desire. Written in Dickinson's signature style of short, enigmatic lines and dashes, the poem raises profound questions about human nature, emotional complexity, and the mysteries of the heart. In this literary criticism and interpretation, I will analyze the poem's themes, motifs, symbolism, and structure, and offer my own insights into its meaning and significance.


Theme: Dichotomy and Desire

At its core, "Tis Opposites—entice" is a poem about the irresistible attraction of opposites, and the tension between conflicting emotions and desires. The poem begins with the declaration that "Tis Opposites—entice—," suggesting that the pull of opposites is a universal and primal force that defies reason and logic. The use of the archaic "Tis" adds a sense of timelessness and inevitability to the idea, as if it is a natural law that has always been and always will be.

The poem goes on to explore the various forms that this attraction takes, from the "rapture of the lonely mind" to the "sweet antagonism" of love. Dickinson captures the paradoxical nature of desire by describing it as both a "fascination" and a "despair," suggesting that the very thing that draws us in can also push us away. The line "Though the opposite is sure" highlights the inherent uncertainty and risk of pursuing what we desire, since the opposite outcome is equally possible.

Motif: Fire and Ice

One of the most striking motifs in the poem is the contrast between fire and ice, which represents the conflicting forces of passion and reason. The line "Heat attracts the polar force" suggests that passion and desire are the driving forces behind attraction, while the line "Till the opposite unite" implies that reason and logic are necessary to bring opposites together. The use of fire and ice as metaphors for these opposing forces adds a visceral and sensory quality to the poem, as if we can feel the intensity of the heat and the cold.

The motif of fire and ice also speaks to the theme of dichotomy, since fire and ice are themselves opposites. The fact that they can coexist and even attract each other highlights the paradoxical nature of attraction, and the idea that opposites can find common ground. This ambiguity is echoed in the final line of the poem, which asks whether "the fire and iceberg-friendship" can truly last.

Symbolism: The Sea

The sea is a powerful symbol in the poem, representing the vastness and unpredictability of desire. The line "As the sea does lonely men" suggests that desire can be overwhelming and isolating, like being adrift in a vast ocean. The sea is also a symbol of the unknown and the mysterious, since we can never fully know what lies beneath its surface.

The use of the sea as a metaphor for desire also highlights the idea of opposites, since the sea is both beautiful and dangerous, calm and turbulent. The line "And the foam—is Yellow—" adds a sensory and visual dimension to the metaphor, as if we can see the waves crashing against the shore. This image of the sea as a force of nature that is both alluring and dangerous underscores the idea that desire is a primal and elemental force that defies rational understanding.

Structure: The Power of the Dash

One of the hallmarks of Dickinson's style is her use of dashes to create pauses and breaks in her lines. In "Tis Opposites—entice," the dashes serve to emphasize the paradoxical nature of desire and the tension between opposing forces. For example, in the line "And Repulsion's proudest force," the dash creates a pause that highlights the juxtaposition of attraction and repulsion. Similarly, in the line "Then—is Sinewed Contemplation—," the dash emphasizes the contrast between the physical and the intellectual.

The use of dashes also gives the poem a fragmented and elliptical quality, as if we are seeing glimpses of a larger whole. This fits with the theme of dichotomy and the idea that opposites are incomplete without each other. The final dash in the poem, which follows the word "friendship," adds a sense of uncertainty and ambiguity to the ending, as if the poem itself is questioning whether opposites can truly coexist.


As I read and reread "Tis Opposites—entice," I am struck by the depth and complexity of the poem. On the surface, it is a simple declaration of the power of opposites to attract and repel. But beneath that surface lies a rich and nuanced exploration of human nature, emotional complexity, and the mysteries of desire.

To me, the poem speaks to the universal human experience of being drawn to what we know is not good for us, of feeling conflicting emotions and desires that are impossible to reconcile. It speaks to the paradoxical nature of attraction, where the very thing that draws us in can also push us away. And it speaks to the fragile and uncertain nature of relationships, where the fire and iceberg-friendship may not be sustainable.

At the same time, the poem offers a glimmer of hope, suggesting that opposites can find common ground and coexist. It suggests that the tension between conflicting forces is not a weakness, but a source of strength and beauty. And it suggests that the mysteries of the heart are not meant to be fully understood, but rather embraced and celebrated.

In conclusion, "Tis Opposites—entice" is a sublime exploration of dichotomy and desire, a poem that speaks to the complexity and richness of the human experience. Through its themes, motifs, symbolism, and structure, the poem offers profound insights into the nature of attraction and the paradoxical nature of desire. As with all great works of literature, it invites us to contemplate our own lives and relationships, and to embrace the beauty and mystery of the human heart.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

'Tis Opposites—entice: A Poetic Masterpiece by Emily Dickinson

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 masterpieces, 'Tis Opposites—entice stands out as a shining example of her poetic genius. This poem is a beautiful exploration of the paradoxical nature of life and the way in which opposites attract and complement each other. In this article, we will take a closer look at this poem and analyze its themes, structure, and literary devices.


At its core, 'Tis Opposites—entice is a poem about the duality of life. Dickinson explores the idea that everything in life has an opposite, and that these opposites are often attracted to each other. She uses a variety of examples to illustrate this point, from the way that light and darkness complement each other, to the way that joy and sorrow are intertwined. The poem is a celebration of the complexity and richness of life, and a reminder that even the most seemingly opposite things can coexist and thrive together.


'Tis Opposites—entice is a short poem, consisting of only four stanzas. Each stanza is composed of two lines, with a simple ABAB rhyme scheme. Despite its brevity, the poem is incredibly powerful, with each line carefully crafted to convey a specific message. The simplicity of the structure allows the poem's themes to shine through, without any distractions or unnecessary flourishes.

Literary Devices

One of the most striking things about 'Tis Opposites—entice is the way in which Dickinson uses literary devices to convey her message. Throughout the poem, she employs a variety of techniques to create a sense of contrast and tension, which serves to highlight the paradoxical nature of life. Some of the most notable literary devices used in the poem include:


'Tis Opposites—entice is a beautiful poem that explores the paradoxical nature of life. Through her use of literary devices and simple structure, Emily Dickinson creates a powerful message about the way in which opposites attract and complement each other. The poem is a celebration of the complexity and richness of life, and a reminder that even the most seemingly opposite things can coexist and thrive together. It is a testament to Dickinson's poetic genius and continues to inspire and captivate readers even today.

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