Emily Dickinson

1848–1850: The Great Revival and Poetic Beginnings

Summary 1848–1850: The Great Revival and Poetic Beginnings

Dickinson turned twenty in 1850, an eventful year both politically and socially. In New England, a religious movement called The Great Revival was taking place. A fervent renewal of Christian spirituality, the Revival inspired huge numbers of people to officially join churches and declare themselves "for Christ." It also resulted in the Temperance Movement, which argued for banning the consumption of alcohol. The Temperance Movement gained great strength. In Amherst, a number of town saloons were forced to close. Dickinson's father joined the Temperance Movement and even officially joined his Congregational Church. Officially joining the church required a public declaration of faith, and for a man like Edward Dickinson, faith was a private matter. However, on August 11, 1850, he officially joined his church. Lavinia did, too. Dickinson, still unconvinced and unsure, did not. Also during this year, the 1850 Compromise was passed, heating up the anti- slavery debate.

Dickinson thought a lot about the Congregationalist faith. She could not accept all of its tenets, and its concepts of judgment and hell frightened her. She gave religious matters her thorough attention. Religious imagery found its way into her poems, which she was writing with more frequency now. She wrote about faith, domestic matters, nature, immortality and, increasingly, death. Dickinson was becoming preoccupied with death and the soul, and her own spiritual investigations gave her a deep well of imagery and metaphor for her poems. She began holding together her many poems in little books which she stitched together using needle and thread.

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