Living Qualities to a Mechanical Thing in Dickinson's I Like to See It Lap the Miles

Living Qualities to a Mechanical Thing in Dickinson's I Like to See It Lap the Miles

  • Submitted By: zebamuni
  • Date Submitted: 05/18/2014 6:51 AM
  • Category: English
  • Words: 503
  • Page: 3

How does Dickinson, in “I Like to See It Lap the Miles,” give living qualities to a mechanical thing? Substantiate your answer with reference to the poem.

In “I Like to See It Lap the Miles” Emily Dickinson gives a vivid account of the train under the guise of a profusely powerful horse, and also presents certain beautiful characteristics of the train. In the poem the poet, adopting a childlike wonder and enthusiasm, plays with the metaphor of the train as an iron horse. In fact, the mechanical product of technology, namely the train—though explicitly named nowhere in the poem—is invested with aesthetic and living qualities.

Throughout the entire poem the object being described—namely the train appears to have living qualities. At the very outset the speaker is found to enjoy watching the train traveling through the country. She states that she likes to gaze at the movement of the train—the way it “lap[s] the miles”, “lick the valleys up” and how it stops to “feed itself at tanks”. And after being filled with water it takes a prodigious step foreword, traveling around a “pile of mountains”. The entire description of the speaker is endowed with beautiful attributes of a living being—such as the capacity to lap, lick, feed and step forward, etc.

The living qualities given to the mechanical thing have been much more obvious as the poem develops. The train continues its journey and, with an air of contempt and superiority, looks closely at the “shanties” by the sides of the tracks while running through them. Then it cuts and trims a distant “quarry” in mountains in order to make room for tracks, and moves forward very slowly—with groaning and “complaining” all the time apart from making a kind of “horrid, hooting” noise. And finally the train goes down the hill. Thus the movement of the train and the places it crosses are vividly, though briefly, depicted. And the train has been invested with certain qualities—such as the ability to feel superior, to look...

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