I’M Nobody, Who Are You – Emily Dickinson
“I’m Nobody! Who are you? ” This poem opens with a literally impossible declaration—that the speaker is “Nobody. ” This nobody-ness, however, quickly comes to mean that she is outside of the public sphere; perhaps, here Dickinson is touching on her own failure to become a published poet, and thus the fact that to most of society, she is “Nobody. ” The speaker does not seem bitter about this—instead she asks the reader, playfully, “Who are you? ,” and offers us a chance to be in cahoots with her (“Are you – Nobody – Too? ).
In the next line, she assumes that the answer to this question is yes, and so unites herself with the reader (“Then there’s a pair of us! ”), and her use of exclamation points shows that she is very happy to be a part of this failed couple. Dickinson then shows how oppressive the crowd of somebodies can be, encouraging the reader to keep this a secret (“Don’t tell! ”) because otherwise “they’d advertise,” and the speaker and her reader would lose their ability to stand apart from the crowd.
It then becomes abundantly clear that it is not only preferable to be a “Nobody,” it is “dreary” to be a “Somebody. ” These somebodies, these public figures who are so unlike Dickinson, are next compared to frogs, rather pitifully, we can imagine, croaking away to the “admiring Bog. ” These public figures do not even attempt to say anything of importance—all they do is “tell one’s name,” that is, their own name, over and over, in an attempt to make themselves seem important.
This “admiring Bog” represents those people who allow the public figures to think they are important, the general masses who lift them up. These masses are not even granted the respect of having a sentient being to represent them. Instead, they are something into which one sinks, which takes all individuality away, and has no opinion to speak of, and certainly not one to be respected.