I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us--don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

As you probably noticed when you read this poem, none of the themes that I discussed in the Overview of Dickinson applies to this poem. My list was not meant to cover every topic Dickinson wrote on, nor does every poem she wrote fit neatly into a category.

Dickinson adopts the persona of a child who is open, naive, and innocent. However, are the questions asked and the final statement made by this poem naive? If they are not, then the poem is ironic because of the discrepancy between the persona's understanding and view and those of Dickinson and the reader. Under the guise of the child's accepting society's values, is Dickinson really rejecting those values?

Is Dickinson suggesting that the true somebody is really the "nobody"? The child-speaker welcomes the person who honestly identifies herself and who has a true identity. These qualities make that person "nobody" in society's eyes. To be "somebody" is to have status in society; society, the majority, excludes or rejects those who lack status or are "nobody"--that is, "they'd banish us" for being nobody.

In stanza 2, the child-speaker rejects the role of "somebody" ("How dreary"). The frog comparison depicts "somebody" as self-important and constantly self-promoting. She also shows the false values of a society (the "admiring bog") which approves the frog-somebody. Does the word "bog" (it means wet, spongy ground) have positive or negative connotations? What qualities are associated with the sounds a frog makes (croaking)?

Is there satire in this poem?

Some readers, who are modest and self-effacing or who lack confidence, feel validated by this poem. Why?

Dickinson, Online overview
"For each ecstatic instant," p. 2
"I taste a liquor never brewed," p. 2
"Safe in their alabaster chambers," p. 3
"I heard a fly buzz when I died," p. 21
"It was not death, for I stood up," p. 22
"A bird came down the walk," p. 13
"I like to see it lap the miles," p. 27
"Pain has an element of blank," p. 31
"A narrow fellow in the grass," p. 44
"I'm nobody! Who are you?" p. 9
"After great pain a formal feeling comes" (handout)
"The soul selects her own society" (handout)
"The heart asks pleasure first," p. 24
"I'll tell you how the sun rose," p. 11
"Presentiment is that long shadow on the lawn," p. 36
"Success is counted sweetest" (handout)
"I cannot live with you," p. 29
"He fumbles at your spirit," p. 11
"I felt a cleaving in my mind," p. 43
"My life closed twice before its close," p. 49
"Wild nights! Wild nights!" p.5
"She sweeps with many-colored brooms," p. 3
"Hope is the thing with feathers," p. 5
"I felt a funeral in my brain," p. 8
"I had been hungry all the years," p. 26
"I started Early--took my Dog--" (handout)
"My life had stood a loaded gun" (handout)
"Because I could not stop for Death," p. 35
"If you were coming in the fall," p. 23
**Supplemental Reading**
      Sample Midtern and Student Answers

Core Studies 6 Page || Melani Home Page