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They shut me up in Prose – Summary & Analysis
by Emily Dickinson

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“They shut me up in Prose—” was written by the 19th-century American poet Emily Dickinson. The poem's speaker compares being constrained by society's conventions and expectations (metaphorically called "Prose," a word that refers to any writing that is not poetry) to being put in a closet as a little girl so that she'd be "still" and quiet. Yet the speaker also describes how she has escaped this confinement through her mind and imagination, which she implies can never be contained by society's rules. On a more literal level, the poem also celebrates the freedom of poetry writing itself compared to the more rigid and formulaic (in the speaker's mind, at least) world of prose writing. Dickinson published only a handful of poems during her lifetime, instead sewing many of her poems into handmade fascicles or booklets. “They shut me up in Prose—” was included in Fascicle Twenty-One, and dates from late 1862.

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