Emily Dickinson Essay Research Paper With reference

Emily Dickinson Essay, Research Paper

With reference to at least three poems, discuss Emily Dickinson’s

attitudes towards mortality.

Emily Dickinson’s poems “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”,

“I Heard A Fly Buzz-When I Died”, and “I Felt A Funeral In

My Brain” all deal with one of life’s few certainties, death.

Dickinson’s intense curiosity towards mortality was present in

much of her work, and is her legacy as a poet.

“Because I could Not Stop for Death” is one of Emily Dickinson’s

most discussed and famous poems due to its ambiguous, and unique

view on the popular subject of death. Death in this poem is told

as a woman’s last trip, which is headed toward eternity. This poem

helps to characterize and bring death down to a more personal

level. Different from the more popular views of death being

brutal and cruel, Dickinson makes death seem passive and easy.

The theme of the poem being that death is natural and unstoppable

for everybody, but at the same time giving comfort that it is

not the end of a soul’s journey. The reader can recognize the

poem’s theme by analysing its voice, imagery, figures of speech,

form, diction and especially symbolism; all of which help the

reader to understand the poem’s meaning. The precise form that

Dickinson uses throughout the poem helps convey her message to

the reader. The poem is written in five quatrains. The way in

which each stanza is written i!

n a quatrain gives the poem unity and makes it easy to read. “Because I

Could Not Stop for Death” starts to gives the reader a feeling of forward

movement throughout the second and third quatrain. For example, in

line 5, Dickinson begins death’s journey with a slow, forward movement,

which can be seen as she writes, “We slowly drove-He knew no haste.”

The third quatrain seems to speed up as the trinity of death, immortality,

and the speaker pass the children playing, the fields of grain, and

the setting sun one after another. The poem seems to get faster as

life goes through its course. In lines 17 and 18, however, the poem

seems to slow down as Dickinson writes, “We paused before a House that

seemed / A Swelling of the Ground-.” The reader is given a feeling of

life slowly ending. Another way in which Dickinson uses the form of the

poem to convey a message to the reader occurs on line four as she writes,

“And Immortality.” The word “Immortality” is given a line by its! elf to

show its importance. Perhaps the most notable way in which Dickinson

uses form is when she ends the poem with a dash, which seems to indicate

that the poem is never ending, just as eternity is never ending.

“I heard a Fly buzz-when I died,” points to a disbelief in heaven or any

form of afterlife. In this poem, a woman is lying in bed with her family

and friends standing all around waiting for her to die. While the family

is waiting for her to pass on, she is waiting for “…the King…” This

symbolizes some sort of god that will take her away. As the woman dies,

her eyes, or windows as they are referred to in the poem, fail and

then she “…could not see to see-.” As she died she saw “the light”

but then her eyes, or windows, failed and she saw nothing. This is the

suggestion of there being no afterlife. The woman’s soul drifted off into

nothingness because there was no afterlife for it to travel to. This is

the complete opposite belief about afterlife in Dickinson’s other poem,

“Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, which indicated that life is a

never-ending journey. These two poems deal with similar topics however

they are entirely different in that one believes in lif! e after death

and the other does not.

Life, death, and reincarnation are portrayed in Emily Dickinson’s poem “I

Felt A Funeral In My Brain.” The use of words associated with death gives

the poem an ominous and dark persona. To add to this tone, important

words that are strong in meaning are capitalized. At the beginning of

this poem the feelings of grief and pain are evident. Throughout the

rest of the poem, there was a strong sense that the speaker needs to

make a choice between a world full of trouble and pain or a heaven

that brings solitude and peace. This is all part of a vicious cycle.

Sometimes when life doesn’t turn out for the best, you need to wait until

your cycle is up. This is reflected clearly at the end of the poem.

The speaker lives life, passes away, and is reborn again into this world

all throughout this poem’s entirety. The first two words of this poem

reveal strong feelings. The words “I felt” show that the speaker is

talking about themselves. In line 1, the words “I felt a funeral in!

my brain,” sparks thoughts of death. The word “funeral” combined with

the word “brain” can be simplified into the fact that death was inside

the speaker. “and mourners to and fro/kept treading-treading-till it

seemed/that sense was breaking through-”(2,3,4). Here the speaker is

bothered by their inner death that keeps mourning throughout their head.

The dashes between “treading-treading-,”allow a pause between the two

words, inducing a long, repetitive treading. This repetition causes

irritation. Finally, “sense was breaking through” (4). This simply means

that the constant repetition is now starting to make sense. A feeling

of relief has surfaced, but only for a short while. In the third stanza

voices start to take over by opening a box. Shown in lines9 through 11,

“and then I heard them lift a box/and creak across my soul/with those

same boots of lead.” This box is opened and all the problems and troubles

lingering inside are released upon the speaker like “boots of !

lead” weighing the speaker down. These problems build up and “the space

began to toll.” Portraying suicidal thoughts, the speaker can’t take

anymore and it’s all beginning “to toll,” meaning that it is coming close

to the end. This poem has a darker persona than the others, because

of the suicidal implications. The word “finished” is emphasized like

other words throughout the poem, but the use of “finished” at the end

of this poem fits accordingly. It also fits well at the end of this

poem because not only was the poem over but it also signifies the end

of life and the start of a new one. The lines separating “then” at the

very end make it seem as though the words are fading away as did the

thoughts of the speaker from the past. The speaker made it through the

cycle of life, living, dying and rebirth. Each stage was a hard endeavour,

with some, followed a period of relief, and others followed with a sense

of desperation, as if things will never get better. Heaven and Earth’!

s descriptions contrast each other so much, but no matter how peaceful

heaven seems, the gloomy tone still lurks throughout. The vicious cycle

of life will always continue, as was reflected in the poem.

Emily Dickinson’s views on death changed from poem to poem depending on

her mood. Her writings also spanned over many years and one can see

a progression in her thoughts on the subject of death as she matured

as a person. Dickinson was not as interested in detail, but rather the

circumference of the idea. In these three poems, Emily has also suggested

the uncertainty and uncontrollability of death. Everyone has these plans

of how things are supposed to go when we die. Or we just assume that we

will experience a peaceful extinguishment of life. The persona of these

poems signifies that, even though we might have plans about the end,

death is uncontrollable and unimaginable.

Death is the supreme unknown; Mankind naturally fears what is unknown.

Emily Dickinson is no different. Her works “Because I Could Not Stop

For Death”, “I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died”, and “I Felt A Funeral In My

Brain” all explored the subject of death. She was naturally scared of the

thought of dying and explored many of the great questions in her poetry.

Is there a Heaven or an afterlife? If you kill yourself will you still

go to heaven? Is it your fate when you die? These are just some of the

questions that people have asked themselves, and because Emily Dickinson

is deceased, she now knows all the answers.


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