Emily wonders if her poetry can have any meaningful impact on the strife engulfing both her family and the country.
This recap of Apple TV+s Dickinson season 3, episode 3, “The Soul has Bandaged moments” contains spoilers.
What is the use of art in a time of conflict? Can art help those in danger? Is Emily’s belief that her poetry can heal based in reality or just a delusion of grandeur?
Dickinson season 3, episode 3 recap
Most of the people around her seem to believe that Emily’s efforts are best put elsewhere. “I need more than your poems,” Sue tells her. Between an absent husband and an overbearing, nitpicking mother-in-law, Sue is having a difficult time with her new baby. Even though Emily is warming to her new nephew, she turns down Sue’s invitation to spend the evening together in favor of attending Lavinia’s sewing event. “You always choose your family over me,” Sue tells Emily, feeling cast aside.
It’s not entirely Emily’s fault. She did agree to attend Lavinia’s bandage-making night against her own wishes (she would rather be writing poetry) but was convinced into “doing something” to help the war effort. Granted, the event springs more out of Lavinia’s own feeling of impending spinsterdom than altruism, and it’s not exactly certain whether their efforts will actually have any impact — and that’s before Austin comes home, drunk and bleeding from a bar fight, and despite Betty’s cries, the bandages go to the man who isn’t bravely fighting for anything but his right to go out and avoid his responsibilities.
Worse, Austin is too self-righteous to think of forgiving his father, and he’s too caught up in his own doomed extra-marital romance to want to. When Emily tells him she has good news, his mind immediately goes to Jane, hoping that her boat has somehow turned around.
The good news in question is that Edward harbors no ill-will towards his son (in fact he’s made a full recovery and is now devoting his time to creating a legacy: “I may be dead within the month but people will never forget the name of Edward Dickinson”). It’s another example of Emily elevating their family drama to the same level of importance as the war.
Her efforts at healing the family are going about as well as her bandage sewing. “All day I’ve been trying, but nothing I do seems to make anything better,” she says, frustrated by the lack of efforts — but the wounds she wants to heal are emotional, and the manner she would prefer to do so is via her poetry.
But most agree that poetry has little impact. Toshiaki brings up Walt Whitman, the country’s most well-known poet, now a nurse. “He realizes that his words don’t matter right now.” But others disagree, most notably Betty, who talks of her relationship with Henry. At first, she blamed him for prioritizing the newspaper (from last season) over their family’s safety. But since he’s been gone, “writing stitched us back together again…it became a source of hope.” And she anxiously awaits his next letter.
Emily takes this to heart, believing that “the best thing [she] can do for the world is you lock yourself away and write poetry.” But writing in isolation is useless, as Betty retorts: “If you can’t handle the mess of the world, then why would anyone want to hear what your poems have to say. Writing that shuts real life out is as good as dead.”
Later, Emily ponders this, thinking about her connection to events going on, and if her writing will ever mean anything, when George comes into her room. He shares an article by Thomas Wentworth Higginson (I believe this one), a union colonel writing poetry from the front lines. George affirms his belief in the power of Emily’s writing but goes too far, and she rejects his kiss. Later, still mulling over Betty’s words, she pens a letter to Higginson — a letter that will have lasting impacts on her poetry.
- Evidence that the awful cousins Austin took in last week are still alive and have yet to burn down the house.
- Taking Fraser’s advice from last week, Emily starts the episode with a descent into hell (picking Dante off the bookshelf).
- Better has been hosting famed abolitionist Sojourner Truth (played by Ziwe Fumudoh, who between this and Succession has been storming the TV landscape this week). She’s in her sixties, but nobody really knows her true age, apparently.
- This episode was written by Sophie Zucker, who plays Abby, and gives herself a short speech about women’s suffrage ending with a request for everyone to not mention this to her husband.
What did you think of Dickinson season 3, episode 3? Comment below.