The Soul selects her own Society

Emily Dickinson

‘The soul selects her own Society’ by Emily Dickinson emphasizes the solitary nature of the “Soul.” As well as “her” ability to select the “one” she wants to give access to, and then shut out all the rest.

Emily Dickinson

Nationality: America

Emily Dickinson redefined American poetry with unique line breaks and unexpected rhymes.

Notable works include 'Because I could not stop for Death' and 'Hope is the Thing with Feathers.' 

Key Poem Information

Central Message: Living independently is important

Themes: Identity

Speaker: Likely Emily Dickinson herself

Emotions Evoked: Confidence

Poetic Form: Quatrain

Time Period: 19th Century

The poet celebrates the importance of living one's life as one sees fit and not being afraid of living alone.

Although it is tempting towards the end of the poem, it is important not to confine one’s reading of ‘The Soul selects her own Society’ to one of romantic intent. The “one” she allows into her soul maybe someone she loves romantically, but more likely, it is the one person who understands her soul as she does their’s. 

The Soul selects her own Society
Emily Dickinson

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 kneelingUpon her Mat —

I've known her — from an ample nation —Choose One —Then — close the Valves of her attention —Like Stone —
The Soul selects her own Society by Emily Dickinson


The Soul selects her own Society’ by Emily Dickinson is a clever, short poem about selecting those who one wants to give access to their soul.

Dickinson’s speaker explores the strength of the “Soul” to select the one or the few that she wants to give access to. The door is opened briefly for this person or those few people, and then it shuts closed again. There is nothing that anyone, whether king or emperor, could do to convince the soul to open back up again. The reason for this “one’s” entry is beyond the confines of wealth or power. It is due to a deeper connection. 


In ‘The Soul selects her own Society’ Dickinson explores themes of self-reliance and strength. This poem suggests that it is the best practice to keep one’s inner life reserved for a select “one” or few. It is the best policy to open the door for those people and then shut it again. This means that no one can get in, no matter their status unless they were selected for their pure intentions. The soul connects to a single person or a few people on a deeper level. One that goes beyond wealth or fame. Dickinson is remembered as a reserved, reclusive woman, with few good friends. It is quite easy to read this piece as her own thoughts on forming relationships. 

Structure and Form

The Soul selects her own Society’ by Emily Dickinson is a three-stanza poem that is separated into sets of four lines, known as quatrains. These quatrains follow a simple rhyme scheme of ABAB, changing end sounds from stanza to stanza. This was a less common pattern in Dickinson’s poetry, but it does change somewhat in the second and third stanza. The second and fourth lines of both of these stanzas make use of what is known as a half-rhyme. The words “gate” and “mat” as well as “one” and “stone” do not perfectly rhyme, only partially. 

Also common to Dickinson’s verse is the use of iambic trimeter and iambic tetrameter, although it is neither remains consistent throughout this particular poem. 

Literary Devices

Dickinson makes use of several literary devices in ‘The Soul selects her own Society’. These include but are not limited to caesura, alliteration, and personification. The latter is seen throughout the poem when Dickinson gives the “Soul” agency to choose what to does and where it goes. She also uses figurative language to suggest what the soul is capable of. 

Caesura is a formal device that is seen in almost every line of this piece. Dickinson’s dashes, which are an integral part of her writing style, divide the lines of verse up. For example, line one of the third stanza reads: “I’ve known her — from an ample nation”. 

Alliteration is a form of repetition that is concerned with the use and reuse of the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words. For example, “Society” and “Soul” in line one.


Analysis, Stanza by Stanza

Stanza One

The Soul selects her own Society —

Then — shuts the Door —

To her divine Majority —

Present no more —

In the first short stanza of ‘The Soul selects her own Society’ the speaker begins with the line that later came to be used as the title of the poem. This is a common practice in regards to Emily Dickinson’s poetry due to the fact that all of her poems remained nameless after she wrote them. She describes in the first lines how “The Soul,” whether her’s or anyone else’s, selects the person, or perhaps people, she wants to grow close to, and them “shuts the Door”. No one, at this point, is allowed into her “divine Majesty”. The select few, or one, are the only ones allowed to know her truly and fully. 

Stanza Two 

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —

At her low Gate —

Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling

Upon her Mat —

The soul’s strength and determination are emphasized int he second stanza of ‘The Soul selects her own Society’. Dickinson’s speaker notes that it does not matter who comes knocking at the door of her soul. It could be an Emperor “kneeling” on the mat of Chariots “pausing— / At her low Gate”. Neither of these things would convince her to open the metaphorical door to her heart. This should prove to the reader that the type of person at the door (their statue, wealth, grandeur). The soul only opens for those it selects for reasons above the mundane. 

Stanza Three 

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —

Choose One —

Then — close the Valves of her attention —

Like Stone —

In the final four lines of ‘The Soul selects her own Society,’ the speaker zooms back and speaks about the soul’s exclusive selection process. She has known “her” to choose “one” from the “ample nation” of people who want to gain entry into her innermost life. She then closes the “Valves of her attention— / Like Stone”. Thus suggesting that no one will ever open the “valve” or door again. The valve metaphor, in addition to the stone imagery, helps to conclude the poem firmly. This is the way things are, the speaker is saying, and there’s no one who could convince the soul to change her mind. 

Similar Poetry

Readers who enjoyed Dickinson’s ‘The Soul selects her own Society’ should also consider reading some of the poet’s other best-known works. These include Because I could not stop for Death,’ ‘I’m Nobody! Who are you?,’ and Hope is a Thing with Feathers’. Other related poems also speak on relationships and the soul. For example, My Soul is Darkby Lord Byron and My Coward Soul Is Mine’ by Emily Brontë. The latter is focused on the speaker’s relationship with God and the strength she draws from her faith while the former is about the soul’s connection to art, specifically music. 

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Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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