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Historical Context in After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes

Historical Context Examples in After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes:

Text of the Poem

2

"He..."   (Text of the Poem)

The capitalization of “He” in this line may draw a connection to Jesus Christ. In Christian theology, Christ “bore” immense suffering in order to redeem the great sins of humankind. Dickinson’s speaker can be seen as grappling with this theology. She recognizes that she exists in a postlapsarian world—a world that endures suffering after the fall of Adam and Eve. If “He” actually did bear humanity’s sins “Yesterday, or Centuries before,” the stiff heart questions whether or not Christ actually bore this burden.

"The Feet, mechanical, go round..."   (Text of the Poem)

Here, Dickinson describes how someone continues to carry out tasks on auto-pilot during the aftermath of a mental shock. The theme of this poem—what happens to a person after a shock—is unique for this time period. In 1862, when Dickinson wrote this poem, doctors understood very little about what happens when a person suffers from psychological trauma. More notably, such a theme would not be considered appropriate for poets, specifically female poets, to write about in the 19th century.

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