Created by Alena Smith for Apple TV+, ‘Dickinson’ is a historical comedy-drama that revolves around Emily Dickinson, the poet. In a patriarchal and divisively political society, the edgy, spunky, and rebellious Emily embraces her passion for poetry and tries to positively impact the world. At the same time, she combats familial drama, young love, and the disadvantages of being a female poet in mid-19th Century New England.
Season 3 primarily focuses on the impact of the American Civil War on the personal and social lives of the Dickinsons. In the bleak, war-torn environment, Emily tries to find the true purpose of her poetry. In season 3 episode 4, she meets one of the greatest poets of all time, Walt Whitman. If you are in need of a recap and ending explainer for this particular episode, then look no further! SPOILERS AHEAD.
Dickinson Season 3 Episode 4 Recap
The episode opens with Emily sending a letter to Thomas Wentworth Higginson whilst her father receives a letter from his Confederate brother. We then shift to Henry, in South Carolina, who is meeting Higginson for a job interview.
Higginson, passionate about equality and extremely politically correct in his language, wants Henry to teach the soldiers of the Black Union regiment how to read and write. Henry accepts the job offer. However, when he approaches the soldiers, he realizes that they have concerns more pressing than literacy.
Deeply moved by ‘Leaves of Grass,’ Emily decides to go to New York to meet Walt Whitman. She finds him working as a nurse and tries to talk to him about her poetic concerns. However, a boisterous Whitman, whilst tending to injured soldiers, overwhelms Emily with his talk of freeing the mind and embracing the body.
Meanwhile, Betty frets over not having received a letter from Henry. At the Dickinson household, Emily’s mother warns Edward that it is dangerous to stay in touch with Confederates. Suddenly, the two become extremely itchy. On the other hand, Emily runs into Louisa May Alcott, who is also working as a nurse. Alcott and Whitman convince Emily to pretend to be a dying soldier’s sister in order to help him pass peacefully. Later, Whitman takes Emily to a gay bar called Pfaff’s for drinks.
Dickinson Season 3 Episode 4 Ending: Does Emily Get Useful Advice From Walt Whitman?
At the Evergreens, Sue and Austin treat each other coldly. Austin tries to interact with the baby but Sue keeps doubting his abilities as a father. However, it is finally confirmed that Austin is the father of Sue’s baby. Meanwhile, Maggie tries to help Emily’s parents with their excessive itching. Suddenly, a mud-covered Vinnie arrives with a pitchfork. The Dickinsons find out that she buried herself alive to honor the fallen soldiers. Vinnie also reveals that she has been sleeping in a flea-infested cot in the barn. The cause of the itch finally becomes apparent.
At Pfaff’s, Whitman asks Emily to get out of her mind and into her body when she worries about her poetry. When she states that she cannot stop thinking about the dying soldiers, Whitman confesses that pain is good for poets. “We must feel maximum pain and maximum pleasure,” he declares and then asks Emily what turns her on. When she responds with “Sue,” Whitman makes her scream “I love Sue!” Emily again asks him about her poetry, but he tells her to stop trying to understand and start feeling instead. The two then dance with the others at the gay bar, and Emily enjoys her moment of freedom. We then cut to Henry, who is finally writing to Betty.
Despite Whitman’s eccentricity, Emily does get useful advice from the older poet. Whitman shows her how to unapologetically embrace her identity and channel it into poetry. His ideology of transcendentalism teaches Emily how to fuse one’s love for art, the self, society, and the cosmos. Additionally, his openly queer persona makes Emily realize the depths of her own love for Sue.
What Are the Challenges Facing Henry?
After accepting Higginson’s job offer, Henry becomes excited about teaching his peers how to read and write. However, upon interacting with the Black soldiers, he realizes the extent of their impoverished situation. Understandably, the soldiers care more about decent wages, food, clothing, and weapons than literacy.
Henry also finds out that the soldiers have not been trusted with weapons and are essentially untrained. Additionally, there is a clear cultural divide and the soldiers are wary of Henry due to him being a literate Black man from Massachusetts. They believe that he cannot understand their predicament. Thus, it seems as though Henry will have to win their trust and somehow change their circumstances in order to make them want literacy.
What’s Going On Between Austin and Sue?
Austin desperately wants to spend time with his son. However, Sue keeps interrupting his attempts to interact with the baby. Clearly, she does not trust his abilities as a father. When Austin asks her to have faith in his instincts, Sue retorts that good fathers are those who stay out of the way. It is obvious that Sue is overprotective when it comes to her son.
In the past, she prevented Austin’s mother from spending time with the baby as well. Sue’s fears about Austin being a bad father are understandable when one considers his history of alcoholism and unstable behaviors. Plus, since she is quite lonely, she does not wish to share her son with anyone else. Sue is thus unwilling to consider the fact that Austin has always been fond of children.
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