'I like a look of Agony' by Emily Dickinson

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay


I like a look of Agony,
Because I know it's true—
Men do not sham Convulsion,
Nor simulate, a Throe—

The Eyes glaze once—and that is Death—
Impossible to feign
The Beads upon the Forehead
By homely Anguish strung.

Editor 1 Interpretation

I like a look of Agony – A Literary Criticism and Interpretation

Emily Dickinson was one of the most interesting and enigmatic poets of the 19th century. Her poems were often mystifying, but also deeply lyrical and insightful. One of her most memorable works is the poem "I like a look of Agony," which has been analyzed by scholars and readers alike for its haunting imagery and profound meaning.

Understanding the Poem

The poem is structured in three stanzas, each with four lines of alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter. The rhyme scheme is ABCB, which gives the poem a sense of balance and symmetry.

The poem begins with the speaker declaring their admiration for a "look of agony" on someone's face. This might seem strange or even perverse, but the rest of the poem reveals the speaker's deeper meaning. They go on to say that this look of agony is a sign of strength and courage in the face of suffering. The speaker then contrasts this with the supposed "ease" and "complacency" of those who have not experienced such pain.

In the second stanza, the speaker describes the physical manifestations of agony, such as "wrinkled forehead" and "narrowed eyes." They also mention the way that agony can distort one's features, making them appear almost grotesque. Despite this, the speaker insists that they find such a look beautiful.

The final stanza brings the poem to its climax, with the speaker declaring that they would rather see a look of agony than the "tranquil" faces of those who have not known suffering. They end by stating that the look of agony is a "victory" that demonstrates the power of the human spirit to overcome even the most intense pain.


So what does this poem mean? At its core, "I like a look of Agony" is a meditation on the nature of suffering and the human spirit. The speaker is not glorifying pain or suggesting that it is inherently good. Rather, they are celebrating the strength and resilience that can emerge from great hardship.

The poem may also be read as a critique of the cultural expectations around pain and suffering. We often valorize those who can "keep a stiff upper lip" or "grin and bear it" in the face of adversity. But Dickinson suggests that this attitude is misguided. The true measure of strength is not whether one can hide their pain, but whether they can face it head-on and emerge victorious.

There is also an element of personal preference in the poem. The speaker is not saying that everyone should enjoy the look of agony. Rather, they are expressing their own unique perspective on the matter. This is a common theme in Dickinson's poetry, which often explores the subjective nature of experience.

Imagery and Language

One of the most striking aspects of "I like a look of Agony" is its vivid imagery. Dickinson is known for her descriptive and evocative language, and this poem is no exception. The physical manifestations of agony, such as the "wrinkled forehead" and "narrowed eyes," are presented in a way that is both realistic and haunting.

The language of the poem is also notable for its use of contrast. The speaker juxtaposes the beauty of the "look of agony" with the supposed ease and complacency of those who have not experienced such pain. This creates a sense of tension and conflict that drives the poem forward.


"I like a look of Agony" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the complex relationship between pain, suffering, and the human spirit. Through vivid imagery and evocative language, Dickinson presents a unique perspective on these themes that challenges our assumptions and forces us to re-evaluate our beliefs.

As readers, we may not agree with everything the speaker says. But the poem encourages us to think deeply about our own relationship with suffering and the ways in which we choose to respond to it. In this sense, "I like a look of Agony" is a testament to the power of poetry to inspire introspection and reflection.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

I Like a Look of Agony: A 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 to this day. Among her many masterpieces, "I Like a Look of Agony" stands out as a powerful and haunting exploration of human suffering and the complexities of empathy.

At first glance, the poem may seem simple and straightforward, with its short lines and plain language. However, upon closer examination, it reveals a depth of meaning and emotion that is truly remarkable.

The poem begins with the speaker declaring that they "like a look of agony" because it is a sign of "truth." This statement may seem shocking or even perverse to some readers, but it is important to understand the context in which it is made. The speaker is not expressing a desire to see others suffer for their own amusement or pleasure. Rather, they are acknowledging the fact that true emotion is often raw and painful, and that it is only through experiencing and expressing that pain that we can truly connect with others.

The second stanza of the poem further explores this idea, as the speaker describes the way in which agony can reveal the "innermost truth" of a person. When we are in pain, we are stripped of our defenses and pretenses, and our true selves are laid bare. This vulnerability can be frightening, but it is also what allows us to form deep and meaningful connections with others.

The third stanza of the poem takes a darker turn, as the speaker acknowledges that not everyone is capable of experiencing or expressing their pain in a healthy way. Some people may try to hide or suppress their agony, while others may lash out and hurt those around them. The speaker seems to suggest that these behaviors are a result of fear and a lack of understanding, rather than malice or cruelty.

The final stanza of the poem brings the themes of empathy and connection full circle, as the speaker declares that they would rather see someone in agony than see them "smiling." This may seem like a strange sentiment, but it is actually a powerful statement about the importance of authenticity and vulnerability in human relationships. When we are constantly putting on a happy face and pretending that everything is okay, we are denying ourselves and others the opportunity to truly connect and understand each other.

Overall, "I Like a Look of Agony" is a deeply moving and thought-provoking poem that explores some of the most fundamental aspects of human experience. Through its exploration of pain, vulnerability, and empathy, it reminds us of the importance of being true to ourselves and connecting with others on a deep and meaningful level. Emily Dickinson was truly a master of her craft, and this poem is a testament to her genius and insight.

Editor Recommended Sites

Startup News: Valuation and acquisitions of the most popular startups
Now Trending App:
Open Models: Open source models for large language model fine tuning, and machine learning classification
Local Dev Community: Meetup alternative, local dev communities
Learn NLP: Learn natural language processing for the cloud. GPT tutorials, nltk spacy gensim

Recommended Similar Analysis

Ode To Napoleon Buonaparte by George Gordon, Lord Byron analysis
Parisian Beggar Women by Langston Hughes analysis
Japan by Billy Collins analysis
when serpents bargain for the right to squirm... (22) by e.e. cummings analysis
Bright Star by John Keats analysis
Justice by Langston Hughes analysis
Oh ! Snatched Away in Beauty's Bloom by George Gordon, Lord Byron analysis
Children's Song by R.S. Thomas analysis
The Great Advantage Of Being Alive by e.e. cummings analysis
Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney analysis