The Meaning of "Hope is the Thing with feathers" – A Poem written by Emily Dickinson

The Background
"Hope is the Thing with feathers" is a thought-provoking poem written by the American poet; Emily Dickinson. She actually wrote up to 2000 short poems all through the 19th century but only got 7 of them published. She was not well known all through her lifetime. She lived a private life all through her adult stage having been trained in a very strict home.

The Structure
The poem Hope is the Thing with feathers is written in 3 stanzas with each of them having 4 lines. It has an iambic trimeter format which usually expands to include a 4th stress at the end of a line. The poem is also characterized by long dashes which signify pauses and breaks. Most of the Emily’s poems have the same format. There’s also a unique rhyme scheme in the poems. The poet uses several literary techniques such as imagery, hyperbole, and metaphors to express her message.

The Meaning
Emily Dickinson defines hope as being like the free spirit of a bird. This is clearly decoded from the title of the poem; "Hope is the Thing with feathers". She goes ahead to throw more light about this by using several metaphors, imagery and other literary devices.

Actually, the poem portrays Dickinson’s inner suffering and struggle about life. She tries to express her thoughts by using parallel images and analogy. She sees hope as a definite character of the human soul. She also sees it as a feathered bird that sings all day long. For her, hope is ever present. She tries to describe the comfort we get from hope when we face challenges in life. The human struggle is considered as a storm but only hope keeps it from crashing while the storm rages. Not even a violent and uncontrolled storm can overpower hope. Hence, hope is simply seen in the poem as a durable virtue that can enhance human life.

The excellent qualities of hope are also expressed in the final stanza of the poem. Dickinson uses her own life experience in showing how hope assisted her in going through challenges and difficult situations.
In all, several themes can be drawn from the poem concerning the virtues of hope. It seems fragile like feathers but it’s very strong. It never fades. It’s not selfish. It’s always fearless and brave even in difficult situations. It’s also ever present. Hence, one is encouraged to live in hope despite the challenges of human existence.