in A Level, English Literature, Poetry

Below, you’ll find part of an analysis of the poem ‘One need not be a Chamber – to be Haunted’ by Emily Dickinson.

Includes a breakdown of the stanzas, an insight into the speaker + voice of the poem, and an exploration of the themes and deeper meanings. This is only a quick overview to help you get to grips with the poem; you can access a full in-depth breakdown of the poem below.


LINK TO THE FULL POEM

STORY/SUMMARY

Stanza 1: A person doesn’t have to be a room – to be haunted – one doesn’t have to be a house – the brain has corridors too – which are even easier to haunt than a physical place.

Stanza 2: If you encounter a ghost at midnight, it’s far safer for it to be an external ghost – something you see in the outside world – than the inside of your head confronting a cooler ghost of the mind. 

Stanza 3: It’s much safer to gallop on a horse through a ruined Abbey, being chased by stones, than being unarmed and encountering yourself in a lonely place – 

Stanza 4: Our true inner self is hidden behind the outer self that we know well and show to the world – this is what should shock us the most – an assassin hiding in our apartment is a small kind of horror in comparison to it. 

Stanza 5: The body borrows a gun – he locks the door – ignoring a more powerful ghost – or more – 

SPEAKER/VOICE

The speaker in the poem explores the tension between two concepts: external ghosts, which are thought to be spectral presences that inhabit the earth, and internal ghosts, which refer to the unknown parts of the mind – perhaps from traumas that have been repressed and given rise to feelings of panic, horror, terror or dread. The speaker wonders why her society is so often focused on their fear of the supernatural ghosts of the world when she personally feels that internal psychological ghosts of the mind are far more terrifying.

THEMES

TASK: For each of the themes below, make a mind map and explore quotations that relate to it. What, in your opinion, is Dickinson’s final message or statement about each theme? 
  • Psychology 
  • The Supernatural 
  • Mental Illness 
  • Fear 
  • Ghosts 
  • Despair 

Thanks for reading! If you’re studying this particular poem, you can buy our detailed study guide here. This includes:

  • Vocabulary
  • Story + Summary
  • Speaker + Voice
  • Language Feature Analysis
  • Form and Structure Analysis
  • Context
  • Attitudes + Messages
  • Themes + Deeper Ideas
  • Key Quotations
  • Extra tasks to complete by yourself

If you’re interested in our complete Emily Dickinson course, click here.

For all our English Literature and Language courses, click here.

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