Emily Dickinson is one of the most popular American poets of all time. Her poetry is seen as intense and passionate. Several of her many poems seem to be devoted to death and sadness. No one seems to know the exact connections between actual events in her life and the poetry that she wrote. The reader can see vivid images of Dickinson's ideas of death in several of her poems. Dickinson's use of imagery and symbolism are apparent in several of her death poems, especially in these three: "I Felt a Funeral in My Brain," "I Heard a Fly Buzz-When I Died," and "Because I Could Not Stop for Death."
In Dickinson's poem "I Felt a Funeral in My Brain," the reader is given a picture of how Emily Dickinson sees death. The title of the poem suggests that she actually feels death in her head. The images that explain how death feels inside her brain suggest that it is an intense, painful experience:
And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum-
Kept beating-beating-till I thought
My mind was going numb- (Dickinson 5-8)
She is almost explaining the feeling as someone would explain a headache that builds and builds until finally it becomes so intense that one could hardly bare the pain. The word `beating,' as it is written and emphasized with dashes, might remind the reader of a pounding headache. Then the poem seems to turn away from that intensity as the intense feeling of pain begins to fade away:
And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space-began to toll, (Dickinson 9-12)
Maybe the image of lifting a box is a metaphor for someone lifting the pain in her head. Perhaps this is Dickinson's way of expressing her thought that death isn't real...
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We passed the Setting Sun-
This could be seen as a metaphor of life as a journey and the meeting of one's life passing before his eyes as he dies, from childhood, through maturity, to sunset. The reader sees death as the driver of the carriage probably because Dickinson herself sees death as the driving force behind life. In this poem, the reader clearly sees death as the one in control. However, the control is not forced, but accepted, just as Dickinson accepts death easily.
In these poems, the reader can see the vivid images that Emily Dickinson describes as death. The overall point of the references to death seems to be that it is nothing to be worried about. In these poems, the reader sees death as a pain reliever, as an insignificant fly, and as a gentleman. Perhaps these pictures are simply ways that Dickinson shows death as pleasant and undeniable.
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