What Inn is this By Emily Dickinson: Summary and Analysis

This poem of Emily Dickinson, written in 1859, centers round the theme of life and death and its metaphorical meaning. The inn in this poem can be metaphorically the life and in another point of view it can be graveyard. If inn is taken as the symbol of life its interpretation goes like this.

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

The poem is built on the familiar metaphor that life is an inn and man is but a sojourner. The metaphysical view of the transitory ness of life has been depicted in this short poem. The speaker, troubled by some obstinate doubts and questionings, ask herself about the nature of this world and the nature of the traveler. Man is a peculiar traveler who has come to spend a night in this inn. The speaker does not find the hearths lighted up with bright flames which promise food the traveler. There are no drinking vessels filled to the brim with drinks. The different rooms are all full of curiosity. In other words there is no activity customary in inns.

The life on this earth is characterized by darkness. The `night' here also symbolizes men's ignorance and his inability to know the truth of life. The life's inn is a dull cheerless place. The various aspects of life is symbolized by the curious rooms. The life is mysterious and complex to live on. There is no warmth in the relationships and among the human beings. There is no certainty of the owner of the traveler of life. One cannot control his/her own life. There are people who are controlling our life by judgments and comparisons. These people are as equal as ‘Necromancer’.

As per other interpretation of the poem, inn is the symbol of the graveyard where everyone has to go sooner or later. In this case the night can be eternal sleep and the traveler is alone in the grave. There is no one to company him/her. The dead one looks for the keeper of the inn and questions on the hospitality of the inn as nothing is offered to the traveler. The speaker then in anger calls the landlord a ‘Necromancer’ for the shabby treatment. Now, “necromancer” is the name of one who practices death magic.

There are questions from the beginning of the poem till the end. Though the first question is simple one the last one is of vital importance. ‘Who are these below?’ when we are alive we have identities based on our social status: rich and poor, educated and uneducated, famous and notorious etc. but once we are dead and below the earth who are we? We are all same; dead. No name, no fame, no identity, nothing less, nothing more. Here the poet wants to focus that we should not be proud on the life that is merely an inn and there must not be inequalities among the fellow being. There is nothing that we can call ours in life. Life is just an inn. Death is all equal and is the sole owner of the life as it claims our life finally.

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Shrestha, Roma. "What Inn is this By Emily Dickinson: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 13 Dec. 2017, bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/what-inn-is-this-summary-analysis.html.