Poetry

After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes

Considered an exemplary account of the physical and mental reactions experienced after great suffering, “After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes” was not a part of the 1890 anthology put together by Dickinson’s sister Lavinia and her brother’s mistress Mabel Loomis Todd. It was instead rediscovered and published in 1929 by an editor of the Atlantic Monthly, a Boston based magazine of literary and cultural commentary. The poem begins with the speaker’s assertion that a “great pain” has happened to her, and a “formal feeling” has set upon her. While direct, the assertion still contains intrigue and ambiguity, which continues to persist throughout the poem. Characteristic of Dickinson’s opaque, suggestive style, “After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes” has captured the attention of readers everywhere with its powerful, thought-provoking metaphors and themes.

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