The Soul Selects Her Own Society: Love and Friendship

Cover image featuring Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson was known to live a secluded life, mostly in the later years of her life. She had just one or two friends and mostly spent her time in her family home. Why did she do that? No one knows, but perhaps the poem The Soul Selects Her Own Society gives us a reason for the reclusive behavior for which Dickinson is famous. 

This poem can be interpreted in two ways; either Dickinson is talking about love or about friendship, but either way, the essence of the poem works with both of the relationships. Take a look at the poem and then the analysis.

The Soul Selects Her Own Society

The Soul selects her own Society —

Then — shuts the Door —

To her divine Majority —

Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —

At her low Gate —

Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling

Upon her Mat —

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —

Choose One —

Then — close the Valves of her attention —

Like Stone —

The meaning of the poem

This is a very short poem, like many of Dickinson’s poems. This does not mean that there isn’t enough meaning in it. Quite the contrary. The subject the poet touches is universal and so personal. Why is it that we select only a few or just one person to share our love and life with? Why is it that after meeting these people, we don’t need anyone else’s company anymore? 

The Soul selects her own Society —

Then — shuts the Door —

To her divine Majority —

Present no more —

Here society refers to two things; It could be one or a group of friends or it could be a lover or even both. What this line is saying is that your soul selects the people that it wants to stay with and then it selects no more, no matter how great or excellent these people are. The soul selects the people it can connect with and that is all it looks for, no other qualities other than that. 

The Soul Selects her Own Society poem by Emily Dickinson
The Soul Selects her Own Society poem by Emily Dickinson

In real life, this is so very true. You don’t get to pick your friends based on any other qualities other than a connection that allows you to express yourself to them. This is the basis of true friendship or love. Once you have found that one person or persons, you look no further. This is the reason why most of us are not actively looking for more “best friends” or “lovers” after we have one. 

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —

At her low Gate —

Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling

Upon her Mat —

This stanza further reinforces the point about connection. Your soul does not care about what qualities the lot has. Whether they are laden with riches, with beauty, with qualities everyone seeks for. No matter what, your soul does not care about them at all. She is unmoved, unimpressed by the most powerful Emperor begging to let her in. 

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —

Choose One —

Then — close the Valves of her attention —

Like Stone —

The soul has a lot to select from. The choices are endless and yet still it only chooses one. The choice is final and once it is made, the soul closes her valves of attention. The use of valve here has to be noted. 

Valves are a part of the heart and by saying that her valves have closed like stone, she refers to her heart being turned into a stone, stoic to other influences. This is the essence of the poem; The heart chooses just one or a few to make her society and leaves the rest outside. 

Dickinson’s life and the poem

The entire content of this poem is a literary description of Dickinson disposition of her social life. She lived a reclusive life, had a couple of friends. She never married and spent most of her life in her family house. If you read the Letters of Emily Dickinson you will find that she had a few special people in her life, but that was all.

While all of her poems feel like expressing her nature, this poem feels like an autobiography. She was an introvert and happy with just one person to share her feelings with. And perhaps this poem speaks for all the people who are happy with just a few in their company.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *