She was not reluctant to defy convention, with her unusual grammatical manipulation and frequent use of dashes. She stands out as one of the greatest American literary figures. This essay’s object is to identify the influences factors that have shaped her style and writing.
In Beth Marlay Doriani’s Dickinson: Daughter of Prophecy, she cites Christianity in the nineteenth-century patriarchal context as one of the great influences on Dickinson’s works. In Dickinson’s poems, her treatment of Christian ideals and religion, in general, are often paradoxical and conflicting. Dorian states: “Dickinson’s vision can be at times very orthodox, radically Christian, often ethical, yet, alternately secular, abandoning Christian dogma and principles” (26). This can be explained by an understanding of Dickinson’s projection of herself as an “inspired religious visionary”, one that is often at odds with tradition (Doriani 26).
It is also suggested that her treatment of traditional Christian ideals is a form of defiance of the cultural circumstances she’s in and that “she drew on her religious surroundings to achieve liberation within her own cultural context, patriarchal as that culture was” (Doriani 2).
Also, nineteenth-century preachers were believed to have a notable influence in the formation of the “literary character” of their listeners (Doriani 47), and an influential ecclesiastical writer and preacher, . Jonathan Edwards, who is also a family friend, is said to be indicative of Dickinson’s internal convictions (Howe 47-48).
The influence of preachers and the oratorical prose can be demonstrated by her constant use of dashes. Michael Meyer, in Thinking and Writing about Literature, furthers: “Since her use of dashes is sometimes puzzling, it helps to read her poems aloud to hear how carefully the words are arranged. What might seem intimidating on a silent page can surprise the reader with meaning when heard” (142).