Monday, September 21, 2009

Over the fence

Over the fence--
Strawberries-- grow--
Over the fence--
I could climb-- if I tried, I know--
Berries are nice!

But-- if I stained my Apron--
God would certainly scold!
Oh, dear,-- I guess if He were a Boy--
He'd-- climb-- if He could!
(F 271)

This is one of those poems that I chanced upon, finding it only when I opened my anthology and looked at the first poem I saw. It seems to me that I find some of my favorite Dickinson poems this way, and today was not an exception.

I love when Dickinson writes about the limitations that we put on ourselves-- the impositions of society and our own guilt and self-made obligations to conformity. The possiblity of a stain upon the apron can be symbolic of the potential stain upon one's reputation. As one critic wrote, much of Dickinson's poetry hinges on the balance between the actual and the hoped for.

There are gender issues here, and it is open for feminist criticism. I suppose Freudian interpretation would make it that way, emphasizing the erotic in the berry and desire to act upon the suppressed desire. And feminist criticism could take issue with the Eve complex. The boy can hop the fence of propriety, sow his wild oats, and hop back into the good graces of all. Again the societal limitations become the theme of this poem, trapping the speaker in her corseted traditional role-- stifled and suppressed.

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