Much energy has been invested in trying to identify a concrete, flesh-and-blood male lover whom Dickinson is supposed to have renounced, and to the loss of whom can be traced the secret of her seclusion and the vein of much of her poetry. But the real question, given that the art of poetry is an art of transformation, is how this woman’s mind and imagination may have used the masculine element in the world at large, or those elements personified as masculine—including the men she knew; how her relationship to this reveals itself in her images and language. In a patriarchal culture, specifically the Judeo-Christian, quasi-Puritan culture of 19 th -century New England in which Dickinson grew up, still inflamed with religious revivals, and where the sermon was still an active, if perishing, literary form, the equation of divinity with maleness was so fundamental that it is hardly surprising to find Dickinson, like many an early mystic, blurring erotic with religious experience and imagery. The poem I just read has intimations both of seduction and rape merged with the intense force of a religious experience. But are these metaphors for each other, or for something more intrinsic to Dickinson? Here is another:
The story portrays Emily as a victim. She had fallen victim to society: first, she had fallen victim to her father’s demeanor and, second, she had also fallen prey to the dictates of society. Perhaps she had killed Homer to satisfy society’s rules that aristocrats should not marry laborers. Despite his murder, she still loved him and defied the town regarding an awful smell that emanated from her house. She had also been resistant to change by not accepting the death of her father and not accepting Homer’s death. The critical analysis essay for A Rose for Emily deems the title character as a victim and thus deserves understanding for her circumstances in life.