An Interpretation of Emily Dickinson's Poem I Felt a Funeral in My Brain

An Interpretation of Emily Dickinson's Poem I Felt a Funeral in My Brain

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An Interpretation of Emily Dickinson's Poem I Felt a Funeral in My Brain


Emily Dickinson was a reclusive individual that was rarely seen by anyone outside of her immediate family and few close friends. This solitude emerges in her poetry in the form of doom and gloom depictions. Dickinson seems to have a fascination with death as if death is a friendly character rather than a horrible image. It has been stated that Dickinson's obsession with death was a sign to others around her and her readers that she was struggling internally.

In the poem "I Felt a Funeral in My Brain" Dickinson seems to be describing a delusion of a person that is contemplating what will happen to him/her when he/she dies. This poem also seems to be an affirmation of heaven and hell and a personal battle within the narrator to come to terms with his/her own mortal existence. In the first stanza Dickinson describes "feeling a funeral in her brain". This could be a metaphor for her own personal death and the reference to "sense breaking through" tells the reader that only through death can a person ever understand and/or value life. This could be viewed as a retrospection on the narrators life and a telling poem about where she was at in her existance around this period of time.

If this interpretation is justified then in stanza two the funeral proceeds with the narrator hating to be there as she/he says:
"And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum-
Kept beating-beating-till I thought
My Mind was going numb-"

This stanza shows that the narrator is still bored with the living world even in death.

The third stanza continues the theme of a struggle between heaven and hell in the last line when the narrator states, "Then space-began to toll". This reference to a bell tolling, or time running out seems to suggest the impending judgment for the narrator.

Heaven is discussed in the forth stanza and compared to a bell:

"As all the Heavens were a Bell
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange race

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Wrecked, solitary, here-"

This bell however does not have the ability to ring. As we all know a bell that cannot ring is useless so I feel that Dickinson is telling the reader that this sould will not ascend to Heaven. This seems to not bother the narrator and in the fifth stanza the narrator describes a fall that is presumably is the descent into hell!

"And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down-
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing-then" (pgs. 2867-2868)
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