‘The Soul Selects Her Own Society’ Poem by Emily Dickinson – Poem, Meaning, Summary and Poem Analysis

About Emily Dickinson and the poem ‘The Soul Selects…’

Emily Dickinson was a Nineteenth Century American Poet. Although a prolific writer, her works were officially published and recognised only after her death, owing to her withdrawn lifestyle. Her poems predominantly talk about philosophical themes and personal ideas.

‘The Soul Selects…’ is one such poem written in 1862 but published much later, in 1890, as a part of Dickinson’s book ‘Poems’, after her demise. It is a poem justifying Dickinson’s perspective on the reason behind, and significance of, an individualistic personality and limited social life.

The poem ‘The Soul Selects…’ by Emily Dickinson

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —
To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —
Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat

I‘ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —
Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

Stanza-wise summary of the poem ‘The Soul Selects…’

In the first stanza of the poem ‘The Soul Selects…’, the speaker begins by personifying the human soul as a female entity, which is stated to choose it’s own particular social circle, and thereby not just anybody in the general society. Nobody else except these selected individuals, even if they may belong to the so-called general conventional system, is allowed into her acquaintance.

In the second stanza, the speaker says that the soul is unconcerned about the materialistic status of people. Even if it is a royal chariot or an emperor who is requesting, if the soul chooses not to allow them into her company, then her answer will always remain negative.

In the last stanza, the speaker says that she has known the soul to choose just one particular person from the whole populous society to be allowed to befriend her, and then refuse to give attention to anybody else.

Themes in the poem ‘The Soul Selects…’

The Central theme


The main theme of the poem ‘The Soul Selects…’ is the significance of individualism against the background of social conventions. Throughout the poem, the speaker celebrates and justifies her nature of prioritizing her own choices over that of others, when it comes to socializing.

Her soul tends to choose its own society, and not the general society, although it may cause people to judge or ridicule her. The people who are let into her life are based on her own independent discretion, and the rest are kept out. We must always focus on cherishing our own self, as at the end of the day, one is left with only oneself, and not others, to help him/her.

Other themes

Significance of soul

The first theme in the poem ‘The Soul Selects..’ is the existence and relevance of the human soul. The speaker narrates the poem by referring to the perspective of her soul, as an independent entity that dictates her actions. She states the soul to be the cause of her self-centered lifestyle.

This implies the speaker’s belief in the existence of the soul rather than an external God to control a person’s discretion. The soul supposedly plays a dominant role in her conscience, as it is in complete charge of who is allowed to be a part of her life and who is not.

Personal independence

The second theme in the poem is the importance of being independent. The speaker articulates that she can take care of herself, as she does not need anybody other than a few selected people in her life. She is perfectly capable of living alone, and nobody is allowed to interfere with her thoughts or decisions.

Indifference towards society

The next theme in the poem is the speaker’s evident indifference for and disregard towards social conventions and general lifestyle. This is hinted at through her phrases divine majority and ample nation, wherein she makes an irony of the so-called ‘perfection’ of the accepted social norms.

The speaker attempts to voice her personal rebellion against people’s opinions on how a person should live. She rejects the role of the public in her life and desires to be either alone or with the few people she has chosen. In this regard, she is indifferent toward society’s perspective on how she should be.

Rejection of materialism

The last theme in the poem is the speaker’s evident indifference towards the materialistic status or position of people with regard to choosing her social circle. This is hinted at through her reference to chariots and emperors. She does not care about one’s societal status, but rather her own personal connection to the person.

In reference to the speaker’s emphasis on the soul over the body, she rejects the whole idea of society’s measuring of a person by their material achievements. An individual should be judged by his inner personality and not external output. It is the soul that truly connects people, not wealth or status.

Line-by-line interpretation of the poem ‘ The Soul Selects…’

The Soul selects her own Society —
Then — shuts the Door —

The poet, or the speaker, begins the poem ‘The Soul Selects…’ by personifying her own soul as a female entity. It represents her own personal consciousness, which has the tendency to be very particular about who is allowed into the confines of her social company.

Selects her own society means that the soul rejects the conventional society of people, but rather selects her own group subjectively to be allowed into her company. Then, she shuts the door, or refuses to acknowledge anyone else as her own, and thereby, they are not permitted into the speaker’s personal life.

To her divine Majority —
Present no more —

The soul shuts the door of the speaker’s consciousness to the whole so-called divine, or ‘right’ conventional system of the majority, or general society, and no more people other than the afore-selected group are let into the life of the speaker.

Unmoved — she notes the Chariots — pausing —
At her low Gate —

The soul’s criteria for selecting her friends have nothing to do with wealth or status. If a royal chariot should pause at her low gate or the speaker’s stream of attention, the soul is unmoved, since it had not been deemed worthy of her company in the first place. It is simply not let in.

Unmoved — an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat —

The same rejection is applied to an emperor, even if he literally kneels upon the soul’s mat or the speaker’s stream of attention, and begs to be let into her company. The soul does not care about the materialistic positions of people but rather befriends them based on its own personal favor.

I’ve known her — from an ample nation —
Choose One —

In the last stanza of the poem, the speaker finally makes it clear that it is indeed her own soul that she’s talking about, as indicated by her claiming to know her. She states that the soul tends to choose one particular person, presumably somebody who is important to her personally, from an ample nation or the vast majority of people in the world.

Then — close the Valves of her attention —
Like Stone —

After this selection is done, the rest of the world is ignored by the speaker, as the valves or the direction of the soul’s attention is withdrawn inwardly. The valves are shut as hard as stone, which indicates that the soul can never be persuaded to open up for people other than her chosen person or otherwise change its decision, as the choice is final and absolute.

Analysis of the poem ‘The Soul Selects…’

‘The Soul Selects…’ by Emily Dickinson is a very personal poem that justifies the choice of an individualistic lifestyle. The speaker says that it is her soul, rather than herself, which made the decision for her to have a withdrawn personality.

‘The Soul Selects…’ is a poem consisting of three stanzas of four lines each, and follows a definite rhyme scheme of ABAB. It partially follows the iambic trimeter. The first stanza states the tendency of the speaker’s soul to select her social circle, the second stanza comments upon the criteria for such a process, and the last stanza hints at who such a selection might be.

The poem has a mood/tone of self-justification and rebellion. The speaker makes it clear that her approach towards society is her soul’s deeming and therefore, unalterable and final. Through the ironic phrases divine majority, ample nation, chariots, and emperors, she rejects social conventions in the light of her private choices.

The speaker in the poem is Emily Dickinson herself. Although the poem could be talking about any person and any soul, we presume it to be the poet, since it is well-known about Dickinson’s withdrawn and secluded personality. Dickinson has evidently attempted to justify her own personality and lifestyle through a poem that talks about her soul.

The title of the poem is borrowed from its first line, as is observed in Dickinson’s many other poems. It highlights and compares the two key characters of the poem, the soul and the society. Therefore, it articulates about how the speaker’s soul is contradictory to and rebellious towards the norms of society.

Caesura is used perpetually throughout the poem, as is the trademark of Dickinson’s poetry, in an attempt to voice the content in as few words as possible. This hints at the straightforward and conclusive mood of the speaker.

The speaker personifies her soul as a female entity and gives a third-person reference to it, stating that she or the soul is independent and dictates her actions. It selects its own society, which means that the speaker’s discrimination in socializing with people is attributed to her soul.

The soul is described as having a strict and narrow approach. It rather controls the speaker’s conscience than herself, and the phrases door, gate, mat, and valves are metaphors for the parts of her mind. By observing the superior status the soul is given in the poem, we understand Dickinson’s philosophical or religious stand, wherein she believes the soul is the driver of all beings.

This idea is continued in the second stanza, where materialism is rejected. Dickinson deems wealth and status as trivial labels of a person, as hinted by her reference to chariots and emperors. These serve as a synecdoche to the society’s tendency to measure a person by their position, and form relationships based on the same.

The speaker’s judgment of people is based on the connection between their souls, and their personalities. This implies that the poet is not materialistic but more idealistic. The ideals of her soul triumphs over the material gains of socializing with people of a higher status.

The phrase choose one in the last stanza can have two interpretations. It is either a single person, presumably a romantic interest, who is special to the speaker, or an example of the fact that very few get chosen by the soul to be a part of her company. Considering that the selection process is probably perpetual in nature, the latter seems more likely.

The poet has used very little imagery in the poem. The phrases door, low gate, mat, valves, and stone serve to give the reader the impression that the speaker’s conscience is like a rigid and impregnable fortress, and only her soul decides who is let into it.

As a reader, we can assess the poet’s mentality and subconscious ideals through this rather subjective poem. The rebellious tone reflects the fact that Dickinson is trying to answer the questions posed by society regarding her private lifestyle. Also, the claim that chariots and emperors ‘pause and kneel’ before her hints at narcissism.

The poem’s message, if any, is limited only to Dickinson’s perspective. While being individualistic and private might seem important in a selfish world, arrogance and ego in this regard might be disadvantageous in the long term, considering that the individual and society are interdependent.

As a poet, Emily Dickinson uses poetry as a means to express her thoughts and ideas. The poem The Soul selects is one of the best examples. With respect to the social culture and society of the nineteenth century, this poem definitely appeals as a unique expression of speaking about one’s personal choices and freedom of convenience.

But as a whole, the poem serves as a voice for all the reserved people and introverts in the world. In today’s competitive world, self-love, self-care, and personal development are considered primary skills.

Poetic Devices

The literary devices used in the poem ‘The Soul Selects…’ are personification, metaphor, synecdoche, alliteration, enjambment, caesura, and simile.


Throughout the poem, the human soul of the speaker is personified as a female entity that controls who is let in or not into her consciousness.


1) shuts the Door Entry into the speaker’s consciousness is compared to a door 2) At her low Gate and Upon her Mat – Entry into the speaker’s consciousness is compared to Gate and mat. 3) Valves of her attention – The soul’s perspective is represented as a physical enclosure with valves. 4) divine Majority – The social system and conventions are stated as the divine majority.


Ample nation – Here, one populous nation is a representative of all the people existing in the world.


The Soul selects her own Society – Here, the consonant S is repeated in the words soul and society.


The poem is a set of seven sentences broken down along continuous lines, and then stanzas. For example, Unmoved, she notes the Chariots pausing
at her low Gate
is a single sentence that is enjambed by the fifth and sixth lines of the poem.


In almost every line of the poem, the poet has made breaks in the middle of the sentences through dashes. For example, Then — shuts the Door — and I’ve known her — from an ample nation —


Like Stone – The closed valves of the soul’s attention are compared to the hardness of a stone.