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The life of Emily Dickinson seems to be one of simplicity. After all, she only lived in two houses her entire life. Even though her life might have seemed plain, her mind was fully understanding to a multitude of ideas and feelings. In her poetry you can see her dealing with many concepts and how she feels about certain things in her life. A couple themes I found particularly interesting were death and nature.
Death can be a complicated issue for many people. However, for Dickinson it seemed to consume her, and therefore is evident several times within her poetry. A clear example of this is in her poem 280 when she writes, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,/ And Mourners to and fro/ Kept treading-treading-till it seemed/ That Sense was breaking through-” (Dickinson 176). The whole poem goes on referring to what I believe her to be talking about, is her own funeral. Reading only that poem alone would make Dickinson seem to be depressed, but I think it is more that she is scared senseless about her death. In the end of the poem she writes, “And the a Plank in Reason, broke,/ And I dropped down, and down-/ And hit a World, at every plunge,/ And finished knowing-then-” (Dickinson 176). Dickinson seems to be afraid of what will happen after death, and that when the end comes she expects it to be a horrible ending to what could have been a great life.
Contrary to this however Dickinson may want to embrace death since it seems inevitable. In a critical essay by Ralph Joly he writes, “On one hand, she seems nearly to celebrate it as an anodyne to life, as in “Because I could not stop for Death,” where death appears in the guise of a suitor and the grave is a “House” in the ground” (“Emily Dickinson”). Dickinson seems to think about death a lot, and because of this it would seem ignorant for her not to look at it in other ways besides negative. Death is a thought provoking subject, and for Dickinson it was one that was far from being overlooked. While Dickinson might have overly agonized about the issue of death, it is still a subject that we should address within ourselves, and to familiarize ourselves with our feelings on death.
Nature is a subject that deserves glorification, and Dickinson made sure of this in many of her poems.
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The poem 986 is also a wonderful poem in reference to nature. When I first read this poem I wasn’t sure as to what Dickinson was intentionally writing about. In a critical essay by Angela Estes she also refers to this poem as a point to reference with Dickinson and nature. In it she refers to the poem talking about a snake. After rereading this poem I found it to be clever and enlightening. One thing Estes writes about this poem is that, “Hers is a poem about coming into contact with nature—moving from a distance to proximity with nature—but more important, it is a poem which contrasts the perceptions of nature from a distance with the reality of nature experienced at first hand” (“Emily Dickinson”). I believe Dickinson really does do this within in her poem because at first I could relate to just seeing a snake on the ground, but then the idea of coming in contact with it sends chills down my spine. When you get to the end of the poem it almost seems ironic that she writes exactly what you felt while reading it, “But never met this Fellow/ Attended, or alone/ Without a tighter breathing/ And Zero at the Bone-” (Dickinson 196). It is important for people to not just take in nature from far away, but to actually experience it. I think it is brilliant how Dickinson can cause this effect of actually experiencing nature in her poetry.
There is so much that Dickinson wanted to express and do with her poetry that it would seem absurd for her not to have had more life experiences outside of her two homes. However, her writings deal with many simple things that went on around her, and she had the intelligence to take these things to a higher level. By doing this she will encourage people to see meaning in not just the big things in life, like death, but also the smaller things, like a snake grazing through grass. Works Cited
Dickinson, Emily. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Vol. C. Ed. Nina
Baym. New York: Norton, 2003. 176-179.
Estes, Angela M. “A narrow Fellow in the Grass.” Masterplots II, Revised Edition. 2002.
MagillOnLiterature. EBSChost. SCC Library, St. Peters. 13 February 2005
Joly, Ralph, Robert. “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain.” Masterplots II, Revised Edition.
2002. MagillOnLiterature. EBSChost. SCC Library, St. Peters. 13 February 2005