Much Madness * Emily Dickinson

As we are still raising awareness for the Mental Health month, we’ll have a look at a sweet poem by Emily Dickinson. The message itself is, while powerful, fairly simple to understand—what is called madness is often actually the truest sanity, but as long as it differs from the perspective of the majority who defines what is right and wrong, it will be called madness.

Much madness is divinest sense
To a discerning eye;
Much sense the starkest madness.
’T is the majority
In this, as all, prevails.
Assent, and you are sane;
Demur,—you ’re straightway dangerous,
And handled with a chain.

This poem states that what is often declared madness is actually the most profound kind of sanity (“Much Madness is divinest Sense –“), when viewed by someone with “a discerning Eye.” What is often called sense or sanity is in fact not just “Madness,” but profound madness (“the starkest Madness”). It is only called “Sense” because it is not defined by reason, but by what the majority thinks (“’Tis the Majority / In this, as All, prevail –“).

Since the majority rules, the act of agreeing, no matter to what, means that you are, in the public mind, sane (“Assent – and you are sane –“). If you disagree, or even hesitate in your assent, you are not only declared crazy, but dangerously so (“Demur – you’re straightway dangerous –“). The act of disagreeing with the majority leads to a loss of freedom (“And handled with a Chain –“), thus one can either be physically free, but ruled by the majority, or imprisoned with their own beliefs.


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