Emily Dickinson’s ironic poem entitled “I am Nobody, Who are you?” provides us with a unique insight into her life and world view. I was astonished to learn that of Emily Dickinson’s over 1,800 poems, she published fewer than ten of them during her lifetime. This poem seems to highlight this aspect of her life. The poem is extremely playful, both in content as well as in rhyme. Within a rhyme scheme of AABC DEFE the poem reads with a strong sense of sarcasm and the lines that rhyme increase the playfulness of the poem. As for the content, Dickinson begins with the first stanza that implies to be a Nobody is a more desirable position in society than being a Somebody. She starts out by stating “I'm nobody! Who are you?” which is ironic in the since that by announcing that she is a Nobody she calls attention to her position and makes herself Somebody. She talks as if there is a second nobody nearby and tells the person not to announce their status because “They” would banish them from their positions as nobodies. In effect, she is insinuating that making a name for oneself or drawing attention to one’s position is not desirable.
Being that Dickinson did not have much notoriety during her life, I believe she is making a critique of the habit of society to measure a person’s worth based off of their popularity. “How dreary to be somebody!” she states, in an attempt to mock the Sombodies of her day by critiquing their position and habits. Dickinson draws a comparison between the life of a Somebody and a frog living in a bog. She does this to highlight that a Somebody is always announcing themselves or their status in order to make others aware just as the frog croaks announcing its own position in the bog. I believe it is also important to note that as Vendler describes in the chapter, Dickinson creates an idea of self that is easy for the reader to place themselves into, she attempts to make the Somebody an outsider, so that the outsider holds the upper hand.