Emily Dickinson:

Parental Expectations as Shackles of Existence





patriarchy, emotional neglect, internalization, subjectivity, identifi cation


No matter how loving parents may be, the demands their expectations lay on their children result in an emotional pressure that goes unnoticed until, in most cases, it is too late and the damage to emotional maturity and the negative effect on personality has already occurred. Such emotional neglect is mostly unintentional. The life of nineteenth century American poet, Emily Dickinson, is an example of how the internalization of parental expectations and childhood emotional neglect can affect emotional maturity and adult behaviour. “Introvert” and “reclusive” are the two words commonly used to refer to her. However, this paper focuses not on what she was, but why she was so. In this paper, I examine a number of Dickinson’s letters to explore her experience of life within a “loving” home full of parental expectations which exerted unintentional pressure on her emotions and made her the socially withdrawn person she ultimately became. For this purpose, I base my discussion on the psychoanalytic feminism of Nancy J. Chodorow and Jessica Benjamin to show how Dickinson’s subjectivity is negatively influenced by patriarchal dominance represented within the family by her father and reinforced by her emotionally absent mother.




How to Cite

Khanom, A. (2021). Emily Dickinson:: Parental Expectations as Shackles of Existence. Crossings: A Journal of English Studies, 12, 68–80. https://doi.org/10.59817/cjes.v12i.26