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Portrayal the Theme of Loneliness by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Katherine Mansfield in Their Writings

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One can be lonely which is one thing, but there is also being alone which is a completely different feeling. The feeling of loneliness is a destructive feeling that is brought about due to low self-esteem or having lost an important person in your life. Authors can express the theme of loneliness in different ways and through different things, making the reader dig deeper into the piece of writing and get an understanding of the emotions the narrator is experiencing and why. An example of this is specifically shown in the poems ‘I am Nobody! Who are you? by Emily Dickinson, ’This is My Letter to The World' by Emily Dickinson, and ‘A Noiseless Patient Spider’ by Walt Whitman. Also having the same theme of loneliness is the short story ‘Miss Brill’ by Katherine Mansfield. These authors portray the same theme of loneliness through different literary movements. Dickinson and Whitman were known to be poets of the American Romantic Movement and Mansfield was a part of the Modernist Movement. These movements give authors different ideas about similar themes or topics creating stories that are alike but have differences the reader can determine. Poetry and short stories both tell a story and have a theme the reader can easily acknowledge which is why when comparing these poems and story story we find many similarities. Through their literary movements and personal thoughts, Dickinson, Whitman, and Mansfeild created stories that are similar with the theme of loneliness and self reflection based off the story. Each author has a different past and struggles which is what reflects off their writing while expressing the theme of loneliness.

All three poems and one short story can be tied together by theme due to the tone the author creates as well as the characters personalities and self-esteem they have. Each author expresses the feeling of loneliness different in each piece of writing.

‘This is My Letter to The World’ by Emily Dickinson, Dickinson writes about the pain of isolation as well as not being connected to the world. This poem represents someone that has isolated themselves from the world and is attempting to write a “letter to the world” to gain this connection and fit into society only to discover the neglect the world gives to the narrator. This failure to give the narrator back what she is reaching out to get lowers the little amount of confidence she once had and so the speaker begins to complain about how it “never wrote to me”. This transition in tone from some hope to none brings the theme of loneliness in, making it easy to see the narrator's true struggles. The feeling of being lonely is self degrading and hard to overcome. When the world rejects her, that will stay with her forever and make it even harder to want to reach out and try to be a part of the world again.

In the poem 'I am Nobody! Who are You?' by Emily Dickinson, she creates another theme of loneliness through isolation. This poem is about the narrator questioning the need for attention. In her eyes you can be a “nobody” or a “somebody” and to be somebody sounds awfully “dreary”. The reader can notice through this poem how the narrator is more comfortable being lonely and isolated rather than being out in public with people knowing her name. Dickinson compares being “somebody” to beings like a frog which is a great symbol in the poem. A frog is a public creature and is always out in the open and one can notice their presence. This is the exact opposite of how the narrator feels about herself and how she is placed in this world.

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Similar to this, Walt Whitman wrote the poem ‘A Noiseless Patient Spider’, which is about a spider that is lonely and isolated and the narrator examines him very carefully for a great amount of time. “He mark’d where on the little promentory it stood isolated”, which shows us not only how lonely and bored the spider was but the author was also. The author compares and relates his struggles with this spiders in a sense that they are both lonely but patient. He uses personification in the poem to see this sense of loneliness he has in other creatures or objects. If the author was not so lonely, he would not have the patience to sit and watch this “patient lonely spider” for that long of a time and still be interested.

In the short story 'Miss Brill' by Katherine Masfeild, Mansfleid writes about an older woman who is a school teacher and has a husband but still feels that sense of loneliness in the world, creating the same theme of loneliness. Miss Brill puts on her fur and dresses up every Sunday to go to a public park by herself where she people watches and eavesdrops as well as gets a slice of honey-cake which she looks forward to all week. Going to the park just to watch people and eavesdrop gives a sense of the loneliness she is feeling and how alienated she truly is. She wants to have good conversation and have the attention she deserves but when being married to an old man who pays very little attention to her, it is hard to receive this attention which is why she goes to the park. When she gets a rude comment about her fur, it sets an even more sad tone to the story and made her little confidence drop to nothing and Miss Brill isolated herself even more so than before. She will now forever be lonely and alienated now. These four pieces of writing relate in the theme and the characters ways of isolating and alienating themselves to create the feeling of loneliness.

The authors of these stories create these themes for a story and also to express their personal feelings and struggles they are having. Emily Dickinson was a part of the Romantic Movement and wrote in the Victorian era. She attended Amherst Academy in her hometown in Massachusetts and then moved to Mount Holyoke College. She often wrote about what intrigued her and what she was interested in. Dickinson was very secluded and often just wrote poems and did not socialize. This reflects off her writing and why many of themes have a dark and lonely tone. Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson were known to be two of the most famous poets in the 1800s with their writing about human nature. Walt Whitman often wrote as a part of the Realism Movement but also some Romanticism during the Victorian era. He was known to be one of America's most influential poets. When Whitman went to help at hospitals during the civil war, it influenced his writing grealy. This is where his themes of loneliness, horror and pain came from and where carried throughout his poems the rest of his life. Katherine Mansfield wrote as a part of the Modernist Movement which made her stories stray from traditional literary standards. She wrote with themes such as alienation, death, and gender roles. Being a woman, she knew the ways they got treated and how society worked so that influenced her to write some of her best pieces of work. These authors write their stories and poems based off of their personal struggles and beliefs which gives the reader the opportunity to relate to and understand the message.

All three of these poems and one short story relate to each other with the theme of loneliness. The authors use their personal struggles to create these themes and have it shown through the characters. The characters in these poems and story are facing the struggle of fitting into the world or society and stepping out of their comfort zone to become a somebody. The reader can see the characters degrading self-esteem after the little amount they have disappeared due to others actions. Through the different movements and time era these authors write in, the causes of loneliness is still there and affecting them and their writing. This sets a sad and lonely tone to every story or poem with that theme. Although the authors have different ways of writing, their similar problems in life create a theme that connects them all.

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Portrayal the Theme of Loneliness by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Katherine Mansfield in Their Writings. (2022, August 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“Portrayal the Theme of Loneliness by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Katherine Mansfield in Their Writings.” Edubirdie, 25 Aug. 2022,
Portrayal the Theme of Loneliness by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Katherine Mansfield in Their Writings. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 2 Dec. 2023].
Portrayal the Theme of Loneliness by Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman and Katherine Mansfield in Their Writings [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 25 [cited 2023 Dec 2]. Available from:
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