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Dickinson employs her ironic, or contradictory, wit to the full text of this poem, beginning with the paradox in the first line.Questions that may arise with the first two words in this line might concern what she means by “madness.” Is Dickinson referring to insanity or anger?
Read in another view, the poem could be taken to express Dickinson’s fear of literal madness.
The poem is deceptively brief and at first glance appears simple.
Shortly upon completing her first year of college in 1848, she returned to her family home and remained there until her death, venturing out for only occasional trips.
Although Dickinson seldom left the confines of her father’s home and infrequently responded to visitors, she did chance to meet two men, in particular, who would greatly influence her.
Her family was well established in the community, her grandfather having been one of the founders of Amherst College and her father having served in both state and federal Congresses.
For most of her life, however, Dickinson shunned public life, preferring to detach herself from society and focus, instead, on her writing.
It can be said to represent her sense of humor, or rebellion, as well as her sense of frustration as an intelligent female living in a world that was dominated by dictatorial males.
The poem can also reflect her anger, for although she was described as quiet spoken and demure, Dickinson did not hold back her strongest sentiments when it came to writing them.
Her first collection, Poems, was published in 1890.
“Much Madness Is Divinest Sense” appeared in this collection.