Hope is the thing with feathers


Hope is the thing with feathers by Emily Dickinson is a short but profound piece that delves into the abstract concept of hope through vivid imagery and metaphor. Emily Dickinson, an American poet known for her reclusive lifestyle and unique poetic style, wrote this poem around 1861, although it was published posthumously in 1891. The genre of this poem falls into lyric poetry, characterized by a brief and emotive format that explores deep personal feelings and themes. 📜✨

In “Hope is the thing with feathers,” Dickinson personifies hope as a bird that perches in the soul and sings a tune without words. This metaphorical bird remains steadfast in the harshest of conditions, never asking for anything in return—even during the stormiest of times. This introduction to the poem sets the stage for a deeper exploration of its meaning and the various literary devices Dickinson employs to evoke the enduring and selfless nature of hope.

Meaning of Hope is the thing with feathers

Opening section The poem begins with the lines:

“Hope is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul -“

Here, Dickinson introduces the central metaphor of the poem—hope as a bird. This imagery suggests that hope is light and free, capable of uplifting the spirit. The choice of a bird, something that can fly and soar, implies that hope has the ability to rise above difficulties.

Mid section As the poem progresses, Dickinson describes how this bird, or hope, “sings the tune without the words.” This line highlights the ineffable nature of hope, a feeling that is often felt rather than expressed in words. Despite the lack of a verbal message, the song of hope is ever-present and comforting, especially “in the chillest land” and “on the strangest Sea.”

Concluding section The poem concludes with the lines:

“Yet, never, in Extremity, It asked a crumb – of me.”

These lines emphasize the selflessness of hope. Unlike other aspects of life that might demand payment or conditions, hope does so freely and unconditionally, even in the most desperate moments. This portrayal underscores the purity and resilience of hope, existing without the need for external affirmation or reward.

In-depth Analysis

Each stanza of “Hope is the thing with feathers” is rich in literary technique and meaning:

First Stanza—

  • Imagery and Metaphor: The bird metaphor encapsulates hope’s nature, suggesting it is an inherent and uplifting part of the soul.
  • Syntax and Diction: The phrase “the thing with feathers” uses simple language to convey a complex abstract, making hope relatable and tangible.

Second Stanza—

  • Symbolism: The “gale” symbolizes life’s hardships. Despite these, the bird—hope—never stops singing, representing hope’s endurance.
  • Alliteration: “And sore must be the storm” emphasizes the severity of the challenges faced.

Third Stanza—

  • Hyperbole: “never, in Extremity, It asked a crumb – of me.” This exaggeration highlights the limitless and unconditional nature of hope.
  • Theme and Tone: The concluding lines establish a tone of gratitude and awe toward the nature of hope, which is self-sustaining and generous.

Poetic Devices used in Hope is the thing with feathers

Below is a table of the top 10 poetic devices used in Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the thing with feathers,” highlighting how each contributes to the poem’s overall impact and meaning.

Poetic DeviceExample from PoemEffect
Metaphor“Hope is the thing with feathers”Creates a vivid image of hope as a bird, symbolizing lightness and the ability to soar above difficulties.
Personification“That perches in the soul”Gives hope human-like qualities, suggesting it has a comforting, ever-present nature.
Alliteration“And sings the tune without the words”Enhances the musical quality of hope’s presence, making it more memorable and soothing.
Assonance“And never stops – at all -“Creates a flowing, harmonious sound that mimics the continuous nature of hope.
Consonance“And sweetest in the gale is heard”Emphasizes the resilience of hope, even in tough times, through the repetitive ‘s’ sound.
Hyperbole“never, in Extremity, It asked a crumb – of me.”Exaggerates to emphasize hope’s unconditional and selfless nature.
Symbolism“And sore must be the storm”The storm represents severe life challenges, highlighting hope’s strength in adversity.
Imagery“And sweetest in the gale is heard”Evokes sensory experience, making the abstract concept of hope more tangible and relatable.
Paradox“sings the tune without the words”Suggests a deeper, inexplicable nature of hope that exists beyond verbal expression.
Internal Rhyme“feathers” and “perches”Adds a lyrical quality to the poem, enhancing its musicality and the pleasure of reading it.


What is the main theme of ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ by Emily Dickinson?

  • The main theme is the enduring and selfless nature of hope, which persists in all conditions without asking for anything in return.

How does Emily Dickinson personify hope in her poem?

  • Dickinson personifies hope as a bird that resides in the human soul, continuously singing a wordless tune that uplifts and supports through times of hardship.

What literary techniques does Dickinson use to convey the theme of hope?

  • Dickinson employs metaphors, personification, alliteration, and imagery to vividly portray hope as a constant and soothing presence.

Why does Dickinson describe hope as ‘the thing with feathers’?

  • By describing hope as “the thing with feathers,” Dickinson evokes images of lightness, flight, and freedom, suggesting that hope has the power to elevate us above our troubles.

In what way does ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ relate to real life?

  • The poem reflects the universal experience of relying on hope during challenging times, emphasizing its role as a source of comfort and resilience.

Hope is the thing with feathers Study Guide

Exercise: Identify all the poetic devices used in the following verse from “Hope is the thing with feathers”:

“And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm.”


  • Alliteration: “sweetest,” “sore,” “storm”
  • Imagery: The entire verse creates vivid images of the storm and the bird’s resilience.
  • Symbolism: The storm symbolizes challenges, while the bird represents hope.
  • Personification: The bird (hope) is described as keeping many warm, suggesting its comforting nature.

This verse is rich in literary techniques that Dickinson uses to enhance the thematic expression of hope’s strength and persistence.