Dickinson wows audience with modernistic view of the writer’s life

Emily Dickinson's life is relived in Apple TV+'s new series

Lochan Mourty, Staff Writer

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     Apple TV+’s Dickinson takes an abstract and modernistic spin on the classic story of famous poet Emily Dickinson, taking some interesting creative liberties in its production and development.

Created by writer Alena Smith and released on Nov. 1, the dark period drama takes place in Massachusetts during the 19th century. Dickinson features a young Emily, played by Hailee Steinfeld whose brilliant mind and radical ideals are stifled by her overbearing family.

A main aspect of the plot revolves around the young poet rejecting her mother’s attempts to marry her off and rebelling against her father’s traditional system of values. All Emily wants to do is spend her time writing poetry. Yet throughout this first season, it seems that obstacle after obstacle is thrown in her way, preventing her from pursuing her passion.

In addition, there is a love triangle that comes into play, with both Emily and her older brother Austin being in love with the same woman, Sue. This situation becomes a central component of the plot, with Sue being happily engaged to Austin in the daylight and clandestinely spending time with Emily at night. An interesting thing to note about this side of Emily’s storyline is that falling in love with someone of the same gender is not the point of tension in the love triangle. Instead, it’s the fact that Emily is forced to go head to head with her brother in order to keep the affections of the girl she loves. Emily and Sue’s romance is portrayed as sweet and natural, just as any other beautiful romance in shows featuring a man and a woman in love. That is what makes it so special for viewers to watch.

Emily’s passion for poetry is fully explored throughout the season in a variety of unique ways. For one, each of the 10 episodes released are based around one of the real Dickinson’s poems, and as the story progresses, you can truly see each of the lines come to life through Steinfeld’s portrayal of the character. The writers of the show have taken many creative liberties to do this, such as in a scene where they lock Emily in an actual coffin just to show how trapped and alone she is feeling at that moment in time.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the entire show is the portrayal of Emily’s relationship with Death. A tribute to the real Dickinson’s obsession with death, the concept is intriguingly personified and remains a dark fascination of the young poet in the drama.

Played by rapper Wiz Khalifa, Death has a strange connection with Emily that seems almost to be a twisted romance of its own. Emily loves the idea of Death because it is the only thing that can take her away from a world where she has to keep the best and dearest parts of herself hidden. The one thing she strives to do in her life is to let people read and love her carefully crafted poems, but her family and society around her seek to stifle her creative flame. Emily has no interest to live in a world like that, and so she becomes enamored with the powers of Death.

One area which Dickinson could have been improved upon is the incorporation of modern elements and language into the show. It makes sense that some parts of today’s society would be featured in the episodes in order to appeal to today’s viewers, but instead it looked forced and misplaced. For example, while Emily, her sister Lavinia, and the other young girls of the town are discussing politics, Lavinia describes one of the more informed ladies as “woke.” While this language is used today, it is extremely out of place for a drama taking place in the 1800s, and it definitely could have done without.

All in all, Dickinson did not fail to be equally captivating, hilarious, and wildly entertaining. It brought to life many of the poetic elements that the real Dickinson poured her heart into when writing, and season two of the show seems to already be in the works. Hopefully, viewers will continue to be able to get a glimpse into the life of a world-renowned poet once more.