As is well known, Emily Dickinson spent most of her life in the small town of Amherst-- a place heavy with the family tradition of her prominent father and grandfather; the Dickinson "Homestead" was a kind of architectural center to it. In her poetry, however, Amherst rarely appears as a specific, concrete place. She prefers generic references to "the Town," which sometimes suggest a critical attitude toward the heterogeneous society of Amherst, which she generally avoided. At other times, "Town" simply seem to provide a geographical point of reference outside of "Home":

I went to Heaven--
'Twas a small Town--
Lit-- with a Ruby--
Lathed--with Down [Johnson 374]

Likewise, the national sphere in which Dickinson lived often seems invisible in her writing, and most readers assume that Dickinson was apolitical and isolated from the turbulent events happening during her lifetime in the U.S. In fact, the Dickinsons were well versed in current events through their many periodical subscriptions and Edward Dickinson's political contacts, and careful reading of Emily's writing reveals her awareness of such issues. One late poem, "My country need not change her gown" [Johnson 1511], compares interestingly to the patriotic poems produced by some of her female peers: it depicts the nation as female, with a gown that is also identified as a "triple suit" like a man's. What's more, this feminized country is armed and dangerous:

My country need not change her gown
Her triple suit as sweet
As when 'twas cut at Lexington,
And first pronounced "a fit."
Great Britain disapproves, "the stars";
Disparagement discreet,--
There's something in their attitude
That taunts her bayonet.

Mainly, we can trace Dickinson's consciousness of town, state, region, and nation through her many abstract uses of paired oppositions: near/far, here/there, home/away. This technique of "abstracting out" the particular place names allows her readers to locate "here" freely and imaginatively: to be at home anywhere. The poem "Volcanoes be in Sicily" [Johnson 1705] demonstrates just how powerful her strategy can be, as the speaker brings the exotic into her own immediate environment, reversing the dichotomy of near and far:

Volcanoes be in Sicily
And South America
I judge from my Geography-
Volcanoes nearer here
A Lava step at any time
Am I inclined to climb-
A Crater I may contemplate
Vesuvius at Home.