In ‘There’s a Certain Slant of Light’ Dickinson uses the everyday yet illusory image of ‘light’ to express her doubt and confusion in her faith. However Dickinson overturns our conventional ideas of light being uplifting and edifying, by connecting it to ‘despair’ and oppression. Through this inversion Dickinson displays the restlessness that her preoccupation with faith causes her.
Although light is a visual image, it is immaterial and cannot be physically grasped which mirrors the incomprehensible nature of Dickinson’s faith. This image is further emphasised by Dickinson’s lack of knowledge on the origin of faith as it is ‘sent us of the air’, once again being something which is imperceptible. Dickinson’s lack of conclusion at the end of the poem is reflected by the continuous exploration of this topic throughout a number of her other poems. In ‘The World is Not Conclusion’, she personifies faith in a satirical image of ‘faith slipping’ and clutching onto a ‘twig of evidence’. We generally associate a ‘twig’ with fragility which displays the frail foundations which faith is based upon. Furthermore, just like ‘light’, Dickinson can ‘find no scar’, find no evidence or trail of faith. The image of ‘winter afternoons’ exemplifies the illusory nature of light and faith, as the foreboding darkness will eventually envelop the light reminding the reader that nothing can last forever.
Moreover Dickinson feels a sense of confusion concerning her faith which is presented though the rhythmic alternations of the odd and even numbered lines which set up two different temperaments towards her faith. The odd numbered lines seem to have an uplifting and spontaneous movement, regardless of the negative meaning, whilst the even numbered lines containing whole rhymes and a regular iambic rhythm, feel heavy and closed. This encapsulates Dickinson’s vacillating opinion concerning the condition of her own faith which could also be connected to the idea of loss of reason and rationality. This idea can be likened to ‘I felt a Funeral in my Brain’ where her ‘plank of reason, broke’ causing her to drop ‘down, and down –‘. The repetition of the word down and the emphatic dash embodies Dickinson’s lack of rational conclusion to the idea of faith and religion. She referred to the immortality as ‘the flood subject’ which compares the complicity of religious matters to nature. ‘This World is not Conclusion’ shows that faith even ‘beckons and baffles’ the ‘philosophers’ of the world. The beckoning refers to the attractive nature of religion, the illuminating nature of light, whereas the baffling refers to the confusing nature of religion, the immaterial nature of light.
The effect of Dickenson’s confusion concerning her faith cannot be seen on the outside; ‘we can find no scar’ but leaves ‘internal difference’. Although there is no outward scarring, the evidence of this impact can be seen as it encourages the ‘landscapes [to] listen’ and the ‘shadows [to] hold their breath’. The ‘internal difference’ which Dickinson experiences is one of ‘oppression’ which can be likened again to ‘I felt a Funeral in my Brain’, whose reference to ‘Brain’ immediately mirrors the idea of a psychological ‘affliction’. Dickinson uses synthesia by the repetitive ‘beating’ of a ‘drum’ which is a berating auditory sound. The word ‘beating’ is also a hynonym ‘beating’ can be likened to an assault and being hit repeatedly. However it also links to a pulsating heart, in contrast to numbness leaving the reader feeling suffocated in their ‘box’. Similarly in ‘There is a Certain…