Image featuring Emily Dickinson for the analysis of A Great Hope Fell poem.

A Great Hope Fell by Emily Dickinson: Detailed Analysis and Easy Meaning

Emily Dickinson has a magnificent talent for conveying complex emotions and ideas through her poems. “A Great Hope Fell” is one such poem that connects so well to everyone that it is bound to leave an impression on the readers. 

It is very easy to recognize a poem by Dickinson just by looking at its structure. Irregular pauses, capitalizations, and abrupt cuts are some characteristic qualities of her poetic creations. 

“A Great Hope Fell” is not just a brilliant poem with a wonderful, relatable feeling about human suffering, but it has complex philosophical ideas attached as well. 

Let’s look at the poem first and then at the detailed analysis, meaning, and summary of the poem to truly appreciate its beauty. 

A Great Hope Fell

A great Hope fell
You heard no noise
The Ruin was within
Oh cunning wreck that told no tale
And let no Witness in

The mind was built for mighty Freight
For dread occasion planned
How often foundering at Sea
Ostensibly, on Land

A not admitting of the wound
Until it grew so wide
That all my Life had entered it
And there were troughs beside

A closing of the simple lid
That opened to the sun
Until the tender Carpenter
Perpetual nail it down -
-Emily Dickinson

Summary and Meaning of “A Great Hope Fell” 

Every one of us has felt the painful death of hope. Be it small or big, the death of hope is always silent, and the mourning is always internal. This is the core message of the poem; the death of hope. 

The poem starts by establishing that something terrible has happened that resulted in the fall of a great hope. The speaker was hopeful about something but that did not turn out in her favor, resulting in a complete loss of hope. 

The poem talks about how the human mind can manage burden, yet sink at the sea while seemingly on land. Everything might seem okay to the world, but inside the ship of hope capsizes. 

This falling of hope and the ruin that comes with it is so latent and silent that no one can notice it. The tragedy just happens and no one notices. 

Dickinson then says that this great hope fell inside, causing an internal wound. She thought of hiding it, not accepting it and it grew into something so wide that it engulfed her life. 

Line-by-Line Analysis

A great Hope fell

You heard no noise

The Ruin was within

Oh cunning Wreck

That told no tale

And let no Witness in

The first stanza is about the nature of the fall of hope. When someone hopes for something important but fails, there is a painful fall. And it all happens internally. 

The ruin is within and no one notices it. It is why Dickinson calls this wreck “cunning.” No one can console you for the pain because no one is aware of it. 

The mind was built for mighty Freight

For dread occasion planned

How often foundering at Sea

Ostensibly, on Land

Now we get to know the nature of the mind. Our minds are built for heavy burdens, burdens of fear of things that are planned. We are capable of bearing the weight of our losses, our failures, and our traumas. 

But the weight that we carry damages us and no one can see it. Dickinson beautifully says that we are often “foundering at sea” while seemingly on land. 

A not admitting of the wound

Until it grew so wide

That all my Life had entered it

And there were troughs beside –

Now we get to know that the “sinking” was. Dickinson says that she did not accept or admit to a wound that was inside her mind. It was done to keep everything seem normal on the outside. 

But the wound grew, and it got so big that her entire life entered the wound. This line shows that everything she does now is influenced by the pain of the wound. 

“And there were troughs beside -” shows that before falling into this abyss of the wound, there were troughs beside it. These troughs were minor lows, the ups, and downs of life. 

This stanza shows that there were ups and downs in the speaker’s life before, but falling into the abyss of wound shows there is no coming up again. 

A closing of the simple lid

That opened to the sun

Until the tender Carpenter

Perpetual nail it down –

The final stanza of the poem shows the finality of the speaker’s situation. The previous stanza alluded to the complete loss of hope, but this stanza proves it. 

“A closing of the simple lid that opened to the sun” represents the complete loss of hope. Sun represents light and light represents hope. But the simple lid has been closed. 

Now the fate of the speaker is decided; to spend the rest of her life in darkness, without any hope until the end comes. 

The beautiful way Dickinson describes death is by saying “Until the tender Carpenter perpetual nail it down”. Here, the tender Carpenter is God. 

The lid that covers the sunlight will be nailed down by God to end life. This poem is very morose, and that is the main theme here. The death of hope brings hopelessness. 

Literary Devices

Enjambment– A few examples of enjambment from the poem include:

A great Hope fell

You heard no noise

The Ruin was within

Oh cunning wreck that told no tale

And let no Witness in

The mind was built for mighty Freight

For dread occasion planned

Alliteration– A few examples of alliteration from the poem are:

Oh cunning wreck that told no tale

The mind was built for mighty Freight

And there were troughs beside

That opened to the sun

Consonance- A few examples of consonance from the poem are:

And let no Witness in

How often foundering at Sea

A not admitting of the wound

Until it grew so wide

Personification– The poet has personified “Hope” in the poem by telling the readers that hope which was something alive inside her has died now, and the pain she feels is internal.  She has constantly referred to “Hope” by giving it attributes of human nature.

Irony– The poet uses  Irony in the last stanza where she tells the readers that even though there was a ray of hope in her life, the lid was closed and it was dark again. The “tender carpenter” which is God closed the lid to hope forever. The damage stayed permanent.

Imagery– The poet uses imagery in the third stanza where she tries to connect with the readers and makes them feel what she felt. Her whole life had now submerged into that wound. There were troughs beside that wound, where she would have lived a normal life but it was too late.

Themes

 The themes of the poem “A Great Hope Fell” are loss of hope, struggle and the need of hope. Throughout the poem, the poet mentioned that she knew that there was no hope in her life anymore, it had died within her. She only felt the pain internally and had to mask her emotions and pretend to be happy in front of others. Her life had no ups and downs, because her life had already been submerged into the abyss of darkness with no ray of light.

Moreover, it was a constant struggle for her to survive in such a way. A life without hope is truly tormenting. It is hope that keeps one alive. She did see a ray of sunlight, but then that disappeared as well. This sends a very important message to the readers that we all live because we have different hopes, different dreams and we are nothing without them. 

We should not be discouraged by the troughs in our life, we should fear the day when we are out of hope. That is a time when life would be lifeless.  

Conclusion 

There is pain in this poem, but this pain is very subtle, latent, and devouring. It eats people up from the inside and no one can even see it happening. 

The fall of hope is something we all have experienced, and it gives a sting that stays for the rest of our lives. The wound it creates, if ignored, can lead to the formation of an abyss; it becomes impossible to get out. 

The entire poem is the description of a person trying to get something, full of hope, to slowly seeing hope fizzing out, and where the hope fell forms a wound. 

This wound grows and grows until everything the person does is influenced by it. And once they reach this stage, the lid that lets the sunlight in closes. 

Finally, all the person now hopes for is the time when God comes and closes the lid forever; bring death. “A Great Hope Fell” brings brutally raw and impactful feeling, and that was the intention of Dickinson

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