Essay on Emily Dickinson's Obsession with Death

Essay on Emily Dickinson's Obsession with Death

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Emily Dickinson's Obsession with Death


Emily Dickinson became legendary for her preoccupation with death. All her poems contain stanzas focusing on loss or loneliness, but the most striking ones talk particularly about death, specifically her own death and her own afterlife. Her fascination with the morose gives her poems a rare quality, and gives us insight into a mind we know very little about. What we do know is that Dickinson’s father left her a small amount of money when she was young. This allowed her to spend her time writing and lamenting, instead of seeking out a husband or a profession. Eventually, she limited her outside activities to going to church. In her early twenties, she began prayed and worshipped on her own. This final step to total seclusion clearly fueled her obsession with death, and with investigating the idea of an afterlife. In “Because I could not stop for Death”, Dickinson rides in a carriage with the personification of Death, showing the constant presence of death in her life. Because it has become so familiar, death is no longer a frightening presence, but a comforting companion. Despite this, Dickinson is still not above fear, showing that nothing is static and even the most resolute person is truly sure of anything. This point is further proven in “I heard a Fly buzz”, where a fly disrupts the last moment of Dickinson’s life. The fly is a symbol of death, and of uncertainty, because though it represents something certain—her impending death—it flies around unsure with a “stumbling buzz”. This again illustrates the changing nature of life, and even death. “This World is not Conclusion” is Dickinson’s swan song on the subject of afterlife. She confirms all her previous statements, but in a more r...


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...o curb the appetite that humans have to know the secrets of life and death. This, then, is the central theme of all her poems: Though she believes strongly in idea of an afterlife, even she understands that nothing is certain, but that a bit of logic and a large amount of faith will guide her through the chaotic journey towards her final resting place—wherever or whatever it may be.

Works Cited

Dickinson, Emily. "Because I could not stop for Death." Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.h. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1993. 726.

Dickinson, Emily. "I Heard a Fly buzz." Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.h. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1993. 727.

Dickinson, Emily. "The World is not Conclusion." Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. M.h. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, Inc, 1993. 729.

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