How Does Dickinson, In “I Like To See It Lap The Miles,” Give Living Qualities To A Mechanical Thing? Substantiate Your Answer With Reference To The Poem

533 words - 3 pages

How does Dickinson, in “I Like to See It Lap the Miles,” give living qualities to a mechanical thing? Substantiate your answer with reference to the poem.

In “I Like to See It Lap the Miles” Emily Dickinson gives a vivid account of the train under the guise of a profusely powerful horse, and also presents certain beautiful characteristics of the train. In the poem the poet, adopting a childlike wonder and enthusiasm, plays with the metaphor of the train as an iron horse. In fact, the mechanical product of technology, namely the train—though explicitly named nowhere in the poem—is invested with aesthetic and living qualities.

Throughout the entire poem the object being described—namely the train appears to have living ...view middle of the document...

The living qualities given to the mechanical thing have been much more obvious as the poem develops. The train continues its journey and, with an air of contempt and superiority, looks closely at the “shanties” by the sides of the tracks while running through them. Then it cuts and trims a distant “quarry” in mountains in order to make room for tracks, and moves forward very slowly—with groaning and “complaining” all the time apart from making a kind of “horrid, hooting” noise. And finally the train goes down the hill. Thus the movement of the train and the places it crosses are vividly, though briefly, depicted. And the train has been invested with certain qualities—such as the ability to feel superior, to look at things like huts and to complain about things.

Towards the end of the poem, the metaphor of the train as a horse is very much evident. The train now “neigh[s] like Boanerges”—a mythical horse. Then the speaker gives a vivid account of certain commendable, living qualities of the train. She states that it is “punctual” like a star and always reaches its destination on time, that it stops at stations like an obedient and submissive servant, and that it displays its great power by taking a step towards the next station. Thus the train appears to have certain features of living beings—such as the capability to be punctual, docile, etc.

Thus the living qualities emerge from the poem. A variety of amusing characteristics is given to the mechanical thing—the train. However, the capabilities—such as to feed, to feel superior, to complain and be punctual—have been glaringly obvious, thereby achieving certain aesthetic effects.

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