View Full Version : Need help analyzing "I like a look of agony" please!!

02-09-2007, 03:56 PM
Hello! I would appreciate any help/insight into analyzing Dickinson's "I like a look of agony." Thank you!!

I like a look of Agony,
Because I know it's true--
Men do not sham Convulsion,
Nor simulate, a Throe--

The Eyes glaze once--and that is
Impossible to feign
The Beads upon the Forehead
By homely Anguish strung.

02-09-2007, 08:04 PM
What are you having difficulties with in the reading. You might want to discuss your opinions and then others can say what they think. My feelings are that the writer feels others aren't trustworthy, a little paranoia comforted by others pain.

Zong-in Kim
02-10-2007, 04:46 PM

Thank you B-mental,
for my using of your comments like below in my Korean translation (blog) of the poetry yesterday...!!

... one of the ways the poem affects on the reader is improved is th[r]ough the use of literary devices. People normally have trepidation of agony, but Dickinson uses literary devices such as imagery, personification, and connotation to reveal her contrasting enjoyment to the social norm. The opening line "I like a look of Agony" could be interpreted as sadistic and cold. Completely reading the poem allows the reader to understand what the first line actually means. Dickinson does not like a look of agony because she enjoys watching others suffer; she is fascinated by the expression of agony. ...

※ I Like The Look Of Agony | Free Term Papers

... My feelings are that the writer feels others aren't
trustworthy, a little paranoia comforted by others pain.

※ http://www.online-literature.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22369


02-10-2007, 06:37 PM
I still find two meanings in the poem. One is a metaphor for sex...

The Eyes glaze once--and that is

I believe that this may refer possibly to orgasm, and the uncontrolled facial expressions. The use of agony as opposed to ecstasy is possibly a concealment technique. She is writing in the Victorian era, which repressed sexuality.

The second thing to think about when reading this is that she was mildly agoraphobic and probably depressed. Perhaps you can take the words at face value. She wouldn't necessarily be sadistic, but merely finding comfort that others agonise as she does.

Zong-in Kim
02-11-2007, 03:28 AM
Hi again,

Your "two meanings" analysis is great..!!
I'll add that comment too as (코멘트3) to my blog
as of today...!!

Thank you.


02-11-2007, 04:36 AM
The speaker treats “Agony” as if it were its own entity separate from the control of men. The speaker states “I like a look of Agony,” not I like a look of agony on men. “Shaming, simulating, feigning,” these are words that connote faking or falsifying; in this way the speaker is able to separate the fake from the truthful. “Agony” is not under the control of men. The processes of agony, “the Eyes glaze once,” is because of Death, not men.
In a more general sense I think Miss. Dickinson is searching for truth, however unpleasant the form it may take.

Zong-in Kim
02-11-2007, 06:31 AM

Thank you for your time...!!
Your idea will be added as (코멘트4) to my blog... thanks.