Individual Knowledge and Power 19th Century Poet Essay

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Individual Knowledge and Power

19th century poet Emily Dickinson is famous for her writing about the sometimes odd quality of being human, or rather the unnatural social norms that humanity has constructed. Dickinson claims that "[m]uch Sense -- the starkest Madness -- / 'Tis the Majority," meaning that most people guide their lives through typical principles of an objective common sense. Despite the best efforts of the philosophers and statesmen who have fostered Western principles of common sense throughout the centuries, people are not mathematical certainties; and while general rules are essential to the well-being of the population, individual lives cannot be dictated by a standardized social formula. True human growth and progress is a journey often taken alone, in which a person has to develop his or her own ideas of right and wrong. This short essay examines three different ways individual knowledge and power is originated, fostered, and remains constant; Emily Dickinson's "Much Madness is Divinest Sense" shows the importance of self-awareness, Sherman Alexie's "Superman and Me" exemplifies self-responsibility,
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and Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" illuminates the need for self-correction.

All individual and social progress first begins with a thought. Dickinson's poem "Much Madness is divinest Sense" points out that "[t]o a discerning Eye," "[m]adness" is true common sense, in contrast to "Much Sense" which is "the starkest [m]adness." This poem plays with different ideas of sanity and madness, which had a great deal of significance in socially rigid 19th century, East Coast America; those statements about individual power through personal knowledge are still extremely relevant in contemporary society. Dickinson's poetry is timeless in that her explorations of self-awareness as a certain kind of social freedom are invaluable at many crux' throughout a person's life; and she thus remains a deceptively "demur" truth-teller to this day ("Much Madness").

Once self-awareness is contrived, action is essential to making real change in the world, even just in one's life. Alexie's "Superman and Me" tells the story of himself growing up as a Native American, and how that identity shaped his entire life; Alexie, however, was determined to not let his cultural and economic status dictate his successes and capabilities. Thus, Alexie writes:…

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