She Rose to His Requirement: Summary and Analysis

She rose to His Requirement by Emily Dickinson is a poem with powerful elements of feminism and reflects the poet’s views on a patriarchal society. Note that this poem was written in the 1800s when most women in American society, and to be fair, many other societies across the world, were defined by their roles as wife and mother. The lack of acknowledgment of a woman’s individuality irked the poet, and she tries to address the same through this poem. The poem is written in three stanzas with an ABCB rhyme scheme.

She Rose to His Requirement: Summary and Analysis


The poem begins with the woman getting married and entering her new life. Right from the first line, the poet focuses her attention on the changes and associated sacrifices of such a woman. It was as if getting married was all about meeting her husband’s requirements. In entering her married life, the lady had to leave all her ‘playthings’ behind, for she was a girl no more, but a wife, which automatically made her a woman.

These lines are worth exploring in detail. They should not be taken at face value. If we consider the poet’s life in conjugation with her other works on similar themes, these lines would appear to be dripping with sarcasm.

Let us start with the word ‘His.’ Note that it starts with a capital letter. This is usually done when referring to God. Perhaps, the poet implies that society has created a situation where a woman must consider her husband to be nothing less than a God. ‘Playthings’ need not be restricted to physical toys. The word could also refer to the dreams that the woman had as a young girl. But those dreams and the innocence of youth had to be left behind as she entered marital life. The word ‘honorable’ is the poet’s way of mocking patriarchal society. She is unhappy about the fact that the shallow lens of marriage defines a woman’s womanhood.  She tries to oppose the perception that a woman’s individuality has no value.

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A married woman, the poet says, bears her own burdens. She is unable to share her deeper thoughts, feelings, and opinions with anyone. In the next stanza, the poet reflects on some of the thoughts and opinions that the married woman cannot share with others.

This woman does not discuss the things she misses in this new life. The word ‘amplitude’ refers to the drastic change that this woman’s life has undergone- from the relatively carefree life of a young unmarried girl to that of a married woman with a lot of responsibilities. She does not discuss what she is awed by, nor does she mention her future expectations from her new life.

The poet also adds the phrase ‘the gold/ In using wore away.’ This does not simply refer to physical gold or gold-plated objects. It also refers to the expectations, dreams, and aspirations that have faded with time. All these remain secrets to those around her.

The poet invokes the image of a sea within which lie hidden, pearls as well as weeds. Only the sea knows at what depths they lie. Similarly, the married woman keeps her happiness and sadness within herself. Only she is aware of the thoughts, feelings, and memories that lie within her.

She Rose to His Requirement: Critical Analysis

This is a powerful poem of protest on the way women were perceived by society. The poet, in an interestingly indirect way, makes her objections heard. Perhaps this indirect approach is far more effective than a direct approach since by composing the poem this way, the poet allows the reader to empathize with the main character. The poem does not depend on slogans or fiery words to make itself heard. Its soft and sometimes sarcastic tone makes it incredibly thought-provoking and also rather gloomy.

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Notice that the poem’s first line invokes heights (‘rose’) and the last line invokes depth (‘fathoms’). This perhaps reflects the disillusionment of the married woman as the years go by. The sprightly young girl has slowly been transformed into a fatalistic older woman.

A large part of the poem deals with the fact that the woman has no one to share her thoughts with. She slowly recedes towards mental isolation. Her thoughts and feelings are kept only to herself. This inability to share thoughts is something that disturbs the poet. As a poet, she is constantly sharing her thoughts with the help of the written word. She perhaps believes that this inability to share would further accentuate the woman’s disillusionment with married life.

About the Poet:

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet. Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although part of a prominent family with strong ties to its community, Dickinson lived much of her life in reclusive isolation. While Dickinson was a prolific private poet, fewer than a dozen of her nearly 1,800 poems were published during her lifetime. The work that was published during her lifetime was usually altered significantly by the publishers to fit the conventional poetic rules of the time. Dickinson’s poems are unique for the era in which she wrote; they contain short lines, typically lack titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation. Many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality, two recurring topics in letters to her friends. I hope you enjoyed reading She Rose to his Requirement summary and analysis.

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