“I’m Nobody! Who are you?”
The poem “I’m Nobody! Who are you?” by Emily Dickinson establishes a
feeling that can rarely be expressed without the use of imagery. A
feeling of solitude, remoteness, and vulnerability that just can’t be fully
grasped by limiting the description to words. This expression of images
over words is very common in Dickinson’s work. She often creates a
feeling that cannot be explained any other way, a feeling that either
speaks to you or does not. The feeling in this particular Dickinson
poem is quite universal. We all wonder who we are, why we are here,
what is out “there”, or even the famous question of, “What is the
meaning of life?”
In this poem Dickinson ponders the significance of one’s soul. “I’m
Nobody! Who are you?” (1). It is as if Dickinson is making it exclusive to
be someone with a soul. “Are you - Nobody - Too?” (2). Here she
seems excited to find someone else with a soul like her. “Then there’s a
pair of us?” (3). “Don’t tell! They’d advertise - you know!” (4).
Dickinson expressed that it is a rarity to have a soul because if “they”
knew then “they” would advertise and expose the nobodys. People often
exploit the rarities in life and not the norm. Here Dickinson is
suggesting that these souls are something different.
In the second stanza Dickinson furthers the idea of liberty and
individuality as a soul. “How dreary - to be Somebody!” (5). Dickinson
is saying that she does not want to be confined to a body. As a spirit or
a soul you can be anything or anywhere. “How public - like a frog-” (6).
“To tell one’s name” (7). A name is often thought of as a label stating
who you are. Dickinson is implying that to expose oneself you can
make yourself vulnerable to those who are insensitive to your being. On
the other hand, being invisible like a free soul you have the ability to be
a watcher and experience without being visibly involved. The reference
to the frog is that frogs are loud and proclaim their existence unlike
those who are souls and silent. “To an admiring Bog!” (8). Dickinson is
expressing that those who you make yourselves public to may not be
appreciative of who you are and who would want to be admired by a
This poem by Emily Dickinson express a sense of dry humor. The
topic of life’s meaning in this poem is expressed through Dickinson’s
images shown in such words as nobody, somebody, they, frog, and bog.
Dickinson is declaring her discontent with the insincerity associated with
existing as simply a body.