Subject: English – Dickinson, “Pain has an element of blank. . . “Although cryptic in language and structure, Dickinson gives her work aninstinctually vivid sense of emotion. Her examination of the feeling ofpain focuses in on only a few of the subtler nuances of pain that areintegral parts of the experience. She draws in on an “Element of Blank”that she introduces in her opening line.
In exploring pain, she proposesthat this “blankness” is a self-propagating force that is subject to thedynamic forces of time, history and perception, but only to an extent. Her first mention of “Pain” in the first line does not distinguish thisparticular emotion as being of a particular brand of pain. She substitutesno other words for “pain. ” By suggesting no other words for “pain,” shechooses the most semantically encompassing term for the emotion.Order now
She thusgives her work the responsibility of examining the collective, generalbreadth of “pain. ” Her alternatives offer connotations that color her usageof “Pain”: the sense of loss in “grief” and “mourning” or the sense of pityin “anguish” and “suffering. ” She chooses the lexical vagueness of “Pain”to embrace all these facets of the emotion. In introducing the “Element of Blank,” it becomes the context that she thusexamines pain. The exact context of “Blank” possesses a vagueness thatsuggests its own inadequacy of solid definition. Perhaps this sense ofindefinition is the impression that this usage of “Blank” is meant toinspire.
In this context, this “blankness” is suggestive of a quality ofempty unknowingness that is supported by the next few lines: “It cannotrecollect When it begun. ” This inability to remember raises a major problemwith respect to the nature of “Pain;” namely whether Dickinson is choosingto personify “Pain” by giving it a human quality like memory, or is in factnegating the humanity of making it unable to remember. Several lines below,she suggests that “Pain” does in fact possess some sort of limited sentientability in recognizing “Its Past enlightened to perceive. ” It is verypossible that it is the “Pain” that is being enlightened or perceiving.
These conscious acts of giving “Pain” some sort of capacity of awarenesspersonify “Pain” to some extent. In continuation of “Pains” inability to remember, She proceeds, “It cannotrecollect When it begun or if there were A time when it was not. “”Pains” inability to recollect further personifies it by also making itsubject to the human ability to forget. Dickinson thus not only personifies”Pain,” but makes it subject to the advance of time. This temporalplacement of “Pain”, establishes “Pain” within the context of theprogression of time by giving it a Past, a Future, and presumably, aPresent. Although she places “Pain” within the context of time, sheindicates it is not limited by time.
“Pains” inability to remember its ownorigins strongly suggests an extreme span of time since its inception. Thiscoupled with Dickinsons claim that “It has no Future but itself,” andthat “Its Infinite contain Its Past” indicates some connection with theeternal. Here, the “Infinite” suggests not only the infinite sense ofeternity, but a more spatial sense of the cosmos and the universality of theexperience of “Pain. “This use of the future also serves the notion that “Pain” leads to more”Pain,” continuing in Dickinsons reference to “Its Past enlightened toperceive New Periods of Pain. ” In this one stanza, she invokes the futureand the past, maintaining that both are key to a cyclicality, where the”Pain” of the past, gives rise to the “Pain” of the present and future. That “Pain” contains an “Infinite” within itself supports this notion of”Pain” being cyclical, as it can thus remain dynamic yet eternal.
That itis “enlightened to perceive New Periods” of the sensation of “Pain” suggeststhat a mechanism of this self-propagation involves the acknowledgement ofpast periods of “Pain. ” The “enlightenment” thus becomes some sort ofimpetus for the propagation of the “Pain” experience as it continues fromthe past into the future. To highlight this sense of cyclicality, Dickinson completes the poem withthe first word: “Pain. ” She completes the cycle of her poem in itsreiteration, giving it closure, but at the same time, reconnecting it backto its beginning.
In doing so, she almost invites the reader to reread thepoem, drawing the reader back in to reconsider her meaning. In much thesame way, it is this reexamination that “Its Past enlightened” suggests. Enlightenment comes from some degree of analysis, and is therefore relatedto the reevaluation of the poem that Dickinson invites. Dickinsons description of “Pain” as having an “Infinite” also suggests aspatial expansiveness in addition to a temporal one. This sense of “Pain”being limitless echoes the broad definition of “Pain” that she suggests byonly using the one term for the experience, and using it only twice. Withinthe context of the poem, “Pain” is her only subject, and thus encompassesall as far as the work is concerned.
The limitlessness of “Pains”existence within time lends to its sense of overwhelming size whenconsidered “Infinite. ” It thus suggests an almost tangible existence of”Pain” as a corporeal entity, spanning towards every horizon. This physicalperception of “Pain” is not quite palpable due to its lack of physicaldescription in the poem. All that is known about it is its outstandingsize.
That sense of size alone lends some sort of semi-perceptible physicalweight to the description. In her sole focus on “Pain” within the context of the “Element of Blank,”Dickinson chooses such a narrow focus that it is difficult to claim she isputting forth a definitive, encompassing definition of pain. Instead, shewrites about a vague, undefined experience called “Pain” that she leaves thereader to define. Note that a semantic distinction must be made betweenpain and the notion of “Pain” that Dickinson chooses to use. She does notdefine whether her notion of pain is emotional, spiritual or physical, orperhaps a combination of all three.
Her treatment of “Pain” as asemi-cognizant entity, infinite but somehow limited, makes it an abstract,unique concept that necessitates its distinction as “Pain. “She does describe “Pain” within the context of the nature of its being. Bydenoting its infinite nature, she also proposes a capacity toself-propagate. However, she becomes unclear in defining the limitations ofthese abilities. She explains that it has existed for so long, that it hasno memory of its inception, but it is unclear whether that is the fault of”Pains” inability to remember or “Pains” infinite history. Dickinson alsoindicates that “Pain” already has a fated future, one that includes onlymore “Pain.
” Despite its infinite nature temporally and spatially, “Pain”is not infinite in a sentient sense, as it is limited by its lack ofperception and by the passage of time. Dickinson leaves much unsaid about the experience and nature of “Pain. ” Shemakes no tangible references about the circumstances of her “Pain,” leavingthe reader to deal only with a indeterminate, abstract notion to relate to. In only relating the “Element of Blank” to its place temporally andspatially, her only hypothesis about the mechanism of “Pain” concerns itscyclicality. Her sole focus on this structure avoids discussion of anyother aspect of the experience or sensation of “Pain.”-another imperative from your friendly local interplanetary Imperial regime-sulik