How Happy Is The Little Stone by Emily Dickinson

Within ‘How Happy Is The Little Stone’ Dickinson speaks on themes of happiness, peace, and the purpose of life. A representative stone stands in as a symbol for ideal happiness and a perfectly aligned life devoid of stressors. 


Summary of How Happy Is The Little Stone

‘How Happy Is The Little Stone’ by Emily Dickinson is a short, charming poem that depicts happiness through the image of a rambling stone. 

The poem dives into the simple life and nature of a single stone that rambles along the road by itself. It does not worry over human diversions and instead indulges in simple, peaceful pleasures. The stone allows itself to exist in the universe without complication. 

You can read the full poem here.


Structure of How happy is the little Stone

‘How happy is the little Stone’ by Emily Dickinson is a ten-line poem that is contained within a single stanza of text. The lines are all short, and make use of Dickinson’s characteristic capitalization and dashes. Dickinson also makes use of a very consistent rhyme scheme following the pattern of AABBCC, and so on, changing end sounds as the poem progresses.


Dickinson’s Dashes and Capitalization

Scholars are divided over what Dickinson’s use of this intermittent punctuation could mean. But in this case, the dashes are easily read as moments in which the speaker contemplated the major themes of the poem, peace and simplicity. The pauses usually represent a desire to create drama and tension in the text. It is also a way for the reader, speaker, and even Dickinson herself, to gather thoughts together before moving on to the next line. There are many fewer pauses in this particular poem than there are n others, this contributes to the smoother, less tense feeling of the text. 

One should also consider the use of capitalization in these lines. This is another technique that Dickinson is known for, and which causes confusion among students and scholars alike. There is no single definitive reason why Dickinson capitalized the words she did. Often, the words she chose were the most prominent of the lines, the ones that were the most evocative and meaningful. This appears to be the case in ‘How happy is the little Stone’.


Poetic Techniques in How happy is the little Stone

Dickinson makes use of several poetic techniques in ‘How happy is the little Stone’. These include alliteration, half-rhyme, enjambment, and anaphora. The latter, anaphora, is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. For example, lines three, four, and seven all begin with “And”. 

Alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For instance, “rambles” and “Road” in line two and “A,” “And,” and “Associates” in lines six, seven, and eight. 

Half rhyme, also known as slant or partial rhyme,  is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line or multiple lines of verse. Examples include “care” and “Careers” in line three and “Exigencies” and “simplicity”. 

Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. There are a few examples in this poem, include the transitions between lines one and two and five and six. 


Analysis of How happy is the little Stone 

Lines 1-4

In the first lines of ‘How happy is the little Stone’ the speaker begins by making use of the line that later came to be used as the title. She notes how “happy,” a very human emotion, a little stone in the road seems to her. This use of personification is important as it is continued throughout the poem. She imbues the stone with human characteristics and uses it as a representative symbol of an unworried, peaceful life. 

While using alliteration the speaker addresses the stone’s technique of rambling, without a destination, around the “Road alone”. It is independent and satisfied in its lack of direction. It doesn’t “care,” she adds, about a career nor does it “fear” a sudden demand or emergency. 


Lines 5-10 

The stone is wearing a “Coat of elemental Brown”. Through these lines, the stone is depicted very simply and described as happily accepting its role in the wider universe. It is a product, and so is the reader and writer, of the universe. In the last lines, Dickinson’s speaker concludes ‘How happy is the little Stone’ by saying that the stone is fulfilling a decree to exist and be part of the world without covering itself in the stresses and complexities of life. It lives in “casual simplicity”. 

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