The Literal and Metaphorical Explainations of Death in Emily Dickinson’s Apparently With No Surprise

The Literal and Metaphorical Explainations of Death in Emily Dickinson’s Apparently With No Surprise

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The most feared aspect of life is also the most necessary. Death defines the human experience. In Emily Dickinson’s “Apparently With No Surprise”, she examines death from both a literal and specific to a metaphorical and over-arching perspective. Emily Dickinson shows us this through her poetry by explaining the aspects of death and how they relate to each and ever one of our lives. The apparent meaning of the poem is how death interacts in the cycle of nature, but closer readings reveal more intimate and complex meanings. Despite it being a necessary component of life, Dickinson often questions the timing and manner that her God chooses to carry out his duties. This poem uses subtle connotations, metaphorical allusions, and sly grammatical choices to convey both the awesome and arbitrary role that death plays in each and everyone one of our lives.
On the exterior, the literal meaning of this poem centers on the cycles of nature. The poem opens with the lines “Apparently with no surprise / To any happy Flower / The Frost beheads it at its play” describing a flower who is sadly cut down by cold wintery frost (1-3). She shows the repetitive and constant interaction between God and nature by saying “the sun proceeds unmoved / To measure off another day / For an approving God” (6-8). This shows how the big picture aspects of life are not affected by the impact of death. Like clockwork, the cycles of nature continue on and on. To show the interactions of nature, Dickinson chooses to have alliteration between the main actors in her poem, the Flower and Frost. In a most literal sense, Dickinson appears to state that death is just but another part in the experiences of nature, uncontrolled by man, only by God. The final lines of the po...


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...lization of death until this poem. After this poem, Dickinson forms a new opinion on death, one that embraces death as a necessity in the completion of the life cycle of humanity. On the other hand, Dickinson could be using this term sarcastically. If taken in a sarcastic tone, Dickinson could be mocking nature, God, or both for the experiences in her life. The author could have seen the loss of a loved one as unnecessary, unjust, or superfluous. So, Dickinson could be mocking the institution of religion as a whole, claiming that their God does not actually provide for the people. Much like a detective, Dickinson’s poem follows an order of ascending size from the small Flower, to Frost, to the sun, to finally the largest item, God. In this tone, Dickinson follows and ends with an accusatory attitude towards God on his indifference towards the value of a human life.

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