Emily Dickinsons Collected Poems
Emily Dickinson: a Presenter New Way Of Literature
Emily Dickson’s is a famous poet whose work has been a subject of recourse ever since her works were found posthumously by her sister which led to her first publication. Some have cited the author to be a mad genius whose writing style and delivery had yet to be seen in that day and age. She does not showcase a distinct pattern though her poetry was switching from old writing styles available at the time and experimental techniques. For others, Dickson may be a woman not actually in charge of her mental state, a recluse who turned to writing as a sort of outlet managing to express herself through verses and phrases that are incomplete. However, whatever is said about the author none can ignore the significance of her works as a woman and an early feminist in a time where a woman’s opinion was not of much importance.
Dickson seems to muse a lot about the possibilities in life as shown in her writing. She uses wording that implies of things that may happen such as ‘might and could’ (Gervasio 3). In some her poems, she seems to wonder about the afterlife, what may happen to us after we die. She appears to think that the afterlife state is not in any way stagnant. For example in her poem “I heard a fly buzz when I died,” the author seems have died and has come out of her body to experience her funeral. She observes the stillness of the room and the thick atmosphere may be due to sadness and grief. Eventually, she goes back to her body. Dickson uses her imagination to imagine an afterlife. It seems she is curious to have this experience knowing that nobody alive at present completely knows the experiences of life after death. Emily maintains her irregular style of writing of capitalizing what are regular nouns for emphasis and using dashes to provide breath in between her lines (Gervasio 4). For some Dickinson tries her best to reveal the experiences she encounters through the writing of her sensations, this is the only way to expound on how she uses language in the form that she does (Thomieres 17).
Dickson seems to dwell a lot on the darker side of issues to which Bloom described as though she was undergoing severe suffering (Bloom 350). Some her works are pebbled with Christian connotations sometimes referring to a God whom she believed in but was not genuinely convinced if he was just and merciful or was one who left humans to fend for themselves. In some of her poems, she seems defiant against the institution of Christianity though we now well know that she was brought up in a Protestant homestead. However, even in her defiance she still manages to use Christian like components such as ‘Eden,’ ‘heaven’ and even ‘cross’ to describe her spiritual battles. She continues to do this because as much as she fights against it, it seems as though she still places great value in the way that Christianity defines her truth (Hughes 284). The author firmly believed in transcendence though she has not managed to fully expound the experience by only saying it is a state of consciousness.
She showcases signs of being a Modernist which were being uncertain about her beliefs in God and placing a lot of emphasis in scientific discoveries of the time. During her day there existed the New England transcendentalism an ideology that disputed the beliefs in Christianity of purity and redemption. Instead, the people who believed in transcendentalism did not see the need for a religion that is organized so as to reach a point of complete divination (Hughes 286). Many believe that her tendencies towards this type of modernism were due to her adoration of Ralph Waldo Emerson a man whose writing she showed great admiration from a young age. Additionally, she admired scientific thought and development using some of these terminologies within her works. She continues to push her idea of the lack of a single point of divination, but instead, divinity is boundless. She manages to look at nature in the same way that though she admires it greatly, she still feels isolated from completely grasping its full extent. In her poem “To the bright east she flies” she claims that she feels homeless at home maybe expressing of how she feels a lack of belonging set apart from what she should consider her place in the world. In her opinion, it seems that the ultimate faith is one that embraces belief, in this case, Christianity even with the doubts (McIntosh 73). She vacillates between belief and unbelief in different literary styles in a way that completely lacks a constant state of belief maybe eventually providing a strong sense that she feels as though death is the complete termination of the spirit (McIntosh 2).
Apart from just being a poet, Dickinson proves to be an early feminist. For some, she is defined to be manic and a recluse, her work the writings of a chaotic mind. However, she manages to confront the societal issues of her time living at a time where a woman was thought to be feminine if she was submissive and was more seen that heard. Her opinion was not of much concern. The ideal woman was defined according to the standards placed by the man. Dickinson did follow the rules in this regard and according to society’s criteria as a woman. She cooked well, read, wrote a lot of letters and displayed adequate sewing skills (Burns 5). In her writing, however, she was a total rebel going against the grain and refusing to regulate her writing to the standards set. Her work always sounds unfinished as though it was a single idea in the midst of many thoughts.
The keeping of her work to herself was a way of applying control in a segment of her life which was important to her. The rest of her life was available for the scrutiny of society, but her writing was hers alone. Even when she sent out works to newspapers and journals, she did so anonymously maybe wanting to see if her work was right by the nation’s publications. She believed that publication was a commercialization of the mind perhaps alluding to the fact that published writers may have been producing content that was conducive to society’s regulations. In this way, she expressed a type of rebellion refusing to regulate her writing to standards laid out by males (Burns 8). This fact is evident due to the almost complete nonexistence of female writers in literature. Her rebellion in her writing style was seen through the use of dashes, irregular capitalization, refusal to adapt to the iambic pentameter rule and even the inventing of her spelling. Due to many transcriptions done to her works from its traditional form, her style may have been changed over time proving her right over the refusal to publish. It is only in her style that Dickson manages to express herself to her full extent, leading to create a style is admired and even in some ways borrowed by present day writers.
There is a subtlety to the way she draws out the importance of the female voice in her work. In her poem “She Rose to His Requirement- dropt,” Dickinson attempts to expound her feeling of the institution of marriage through her eyes. At the beginning of the poem, she writes that the woman dropped things she thought of as her playthings to do the ‘honorable’ duty of becoming a wife thus entering into marriage (Burns 16). When she says playthings it seems to me that a woman’s interests or work that she performs before marriage is of little importance as compared to the honorable work of marriage. However, in the next stanza, she brings out the fact that as a wife continues to be in marriage in their day and age, a woman continues to lose her potential. Her potential is covered entirely by the Sea which is made out to mean her husband in this case. Her husband continues to gain from the marriage as the wife continues to lose from this institution. Dickinson manages to say that a woman especially one that is married manages to be forced into a system which she cannot win. But that would be the only way a woman would get any sense of financial stability in the nineteenth century.
Again Dickinson seems to show a stifling of the woman’s voice in her work, another way of her showing subtlety when speaking for the woman. She showcases the restrictions placed on the woman through the poem “Over the Fence-” saying that were she to stain her apron, God would be angry. Here the speaker is made out to be distinctly feminine. Maybe the staining of the apron is seen to be signs of an irresponsible woman maybe even one who is not perfect in this sense perfectly clean. She exaggerates the issue intentionally saying God would scold her showing what a small mistake by the woman would be considered of importance.
Through her different style, Emily Dickinson manages not only to present an entirely new way of literature but still manages to discuss difficult societal issues. She breaks away from the norm though not in the obvious behavioral ways rebels in a way only she could see. In a way, she rebels in a way that is most important. She rebels for self.
The Portrayal Of Death in Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” And Seamus Heaney’s “Midterm Break”
In Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for death” and Seamus Heaney’s “Midterm break” death is the main subject throughout the poems. Maybe while living in an antisocial way Emily Dickinson started to be interested and started to write and learn about death. Seamus Heaney wrote “Midterm break” when he was older the poem was about the death of his brother and what he remembers about it. Emily Dickinson’s poem talks about Death in a more friendly way and personifies him giving a feeling that it’s a perfectly natural thing that happens, but Seamus Heaney treats death as more of a concept and an unnatural thing that happens in life.
Emily Dickinson portrays death in a different aspect as Seamus Heaney did in his poem. Unlike other poets that normally portrays death as a grim reaper that slices away at his victims and brings them away, Emily Dickinson in “Because I could not stop for death” In Emily Dickinson’s poem she personifies death as a stylish man that will be with her on her journey. She uses masculine pronouns to help paint a picture for the audience of what she thinks death looks like. She accentuates her affable mood towards death by using pronouns like “We” or “Ourselves” to align herself or the main protagonist with death. Emily Dickinson’s description of death is unusual compared to what other poets normally do, she personifies death and gives the audience an image of an aristocratic travel companion that will be with her through her travels into unfamiliar land give a feeling of an abnormal sense of amenity. “And I had put away, My labor and my leisure too, For His Civility”. This benign version of death is enhanced by her use of enjambment on “And Immortality”. In the poem the main protagonist and what the main protagonist thinks is death arrive at a school, which is in contradiction to the rest of the environment (“We passed the School, where Children strove”). Children and school are normally associated with life and joy but in the poem it’s polar opposite to what they normally are (“We passed the School, where Children strove”) strove implies that it took a great effort to do something which is contradictory for children because children are normally known for being impulsive and random. Strove could also imply that struggle which again is contradictory to what children are normally which is free and happy. Perhaps Emily Dickinson is trying to tell her audience that eternal life or “immortality” as it is told in the poem is only available through hard work and struggle.
Dickinson and Heaney both use rhythm and rhyme in their respective poems. Both poems picked a specific rhythm to set a specific mood for each poem. Seamus Heaney used a tercet format to write his poem this could have been on purpose because the poem was based on the death of his brother which was 3 at the time it would turn 4 later that year which explains the last line separate from all the others (“A four-foot box, a foot for every year”). The tercet format also sets a slow and heavy pace to fit the occasion. It also sets a calm and broken atmosphere compared to what Dickinson has done with her poem, she has set up for the poem to be fluid and more song like with a happier outlook on things. Heaney used pauses dashes and enjambment to slow the flow of the poem to allow the effects of each word in the poem to have a longer lasting effect on the audience that encourages the audience to progress throughout the poem in a more careful and considerate pace due to the circumstances and setting of the poem. Meanwhile in Emily Dickinson’s piece her uses of dashes and other punctuation is used to emphasize her theme of “Immortality” throughout her poem. The dashes also promote a feeling of advancements throughout the poem giving the audience a feeling of story instead of poem. Emily Dickinson choice of words allows the audience to have a more introspective analysis and understanding of each and every line, Even though each line has a deeper meaning to it, all of the lines in the poem links back to the same topic in the end. In all of the stanzas, Emily Dickinson wrote her choice of words in 8 syllables for her odd lines and 6 syllables for her even lines, in the fourth stanza that rule is completely flipped around, just like the setting of the poem from day to night. Maybe this flip of rules is a connotation of how the protagonist is finally beginning the transition from the land of the living to the land of the dead.
Emily Dickinson’s eloquence further reinforces her affection towards death throughout the third and fourth stanza, the main protagonist goes pass a “School”, “Fields of Gazing Grain” and “Setting Sun” each one of these settings can be interpreted as a stage of life. “School” could represent her adolescents, the “Fields of Gazing Grain” could represent her time as a young adult and “Setting sun” could mean her time as an old woman. At the end of the main protagonist travels she arrives at “House” that is broken and crumbled, the main protagonist is mentioned to see “Swelling in the ground”. This “swelling in the ground” could be interpreted as her final resting place. Emily Dickinson’s choice to put her final resting place with a “House” is rather contradictory because a “House” is usually associated with families and is normally a very lively place but maybe Emily Dickinson meant to associate her final resting place with something more comfortable and intimate is intentional to further reinforce her relationship with death. Even though the “Swelling in the ground” is meant to be her final resting place it is notable that the main protagonist only “pauses” in front of the grave and moves on in her journey with death. That could be interpreted as she never planned to stay on site and would move on towards immortality and eternity. When the main protagonist gets closer and closer to the end of her journey she starts to see less and less of everything around her until her vision is limited to the things in front of her in the carriage. That could be interpreted as how the longer she has been on her journey the less he cares about the material world.
In Seamus Heaney’s poem, his main protagonist experiences what he felt when his brother passed away. Seamus Heaney’s main focus was to capture what it felt to have someone you cared so deeply for ripped away from you in a moment’s notice. He does this wonderfully by describing everything action the people that cared about his brother did. For example, “I met my father crying” and “In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs”. Both of these express how emotionally damaged his parents were from his mother who has felt so much there isn’t anything more she can say or feel, and his father whom he describes as “He had always taken funerals in his stride—”also “shed a tear” which shatters what young Seamus Heaney used to think about his father striking a deep sense of fear into him. All of the work he’s put in to describe the actions of the people around him makes the audience feel like they’re there at the funeral to making the audience feel the pain that his family and he did too. Next, when the main protagonist enters the house he hears “Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,” this further increases the amount of unease and lack of privacy in the grieving process. Every word Heaney has used was designed to evoke great empathy from the audience.
In conclusion, both poems offer a different version of approach towards death one views death with more embracing outlook and one with a more animosity. These two poem contrast with each other Emily Dickinson’s work was mainly used to lessen the audience’s hate of death and to allow the audience to view death the same way as she does. Seamus Heaney presented death in its most normally viewed way, as a painful and challenging experience. I believe that readers would think that Emily Dickinson’s presentation of death to be more unique and interesting, she writes about death almost in a romantic way fantasizing him as someone that will always be there for her. I believe that both of these poems are highly articulate and compelling and should be studied in the future.
Personal Life Of Emily Dickinson And Her Unpublished Works
All Tied Up: BDSM Lifestyles
Imagine this; you’re tied down at the wrists and ankles with course rope, gagged so deeply you can barely breathe, and being whipped so hard welts start to sprout on your tight, red skin. You have an unimaginable amount of trust with the man you allow to do this to you. It’s not just the pleasure you crave, but the pain, and the relationship you have. This is the interworkings of a BDSM lifestyle. BDSM stands for bondage, dominance, submission, and a Master. BDSM relationships in America are more popular now than ever, and seem more normal now than ever. This lifestyle can consist of a Master and a Slave, or submissive. The Master in this relationship is the most important, powerful, and influential being in a submissive’s sexual life. Likewise, a submissive is ready to conform to authority or will of his or her Master, being obedient and/or passive in all things. The 19th century poet, Emily Dickinson was speculated to be involved in a BDSM relationship because of three, unpublished letters she wrote to her “Master”. BDSM lifestyles are explored through Dickinson’s Master Letters, the recent and popular BDSM movie Fifty Shades of Grey, and the cultural impact of this lifestyle on relationships, families, and on society.
Emily Dickinson’s Master Letters consisted of three unpublished letter’s to a “Master”. All three letters detailed her passion and will to conform to the mysterious Master as shown in her first letter through the line, “ How strong when weak to recollect, and easy quite, to love” and again in the line, “You ask me what my flowers said- then they were disobedient- I gave them messages” “Dear Master, I am ill”. The first line shows her upmost admiration for the Master that she’s writing to because of how strong he is and how it’s so easy to love his strength. Dickinson in her early life wrote a lot about how weak she felt up against the world and this Master has given her purpose and his strength leads and guides her. It’s not difficult to see why she admired him so much at a time where he had the qualities she lacked. The second line distinguishes the certain obedience she has to follow in this lifestyle to keep her Master. It’s obvious that she asks her Master for approval on everything and finds guidance in his knowledge. She even asks his approval on her paintings and there message and when he finds it not following his rules, she changes it. BDSM lifestyles live off of rules, respect, and obedience.
Did Dickinson love her Master? Or could it be confused for respect and admiration? Love is a topic Dickinson spent her whole life writing about from finding love, to losing love, and wondering if love was even real. But, the second letter in the collection of Master Letter’s by Dickinson contrasts her true love for her Master with the love for her Master’s brutal ways. Could it have been true love? Dickinson writes, “A love so big it scares her, rushing among her small heart- pushing aside the blood- and leaving her all faint and white in the gust’s arm” “Oh- did I offend it”. According to evidence, this had been Dickinson’s first and only BDSM relationship leaving us to understand why this big love scared Dickinson. She had never found love in pain and it appears that’s all her Master gave her. Referncing this line in the second letter, the love crushed her leaving her defenseless forcing her to conform to her Master’s will which is why she uses the metaphor of the wind gust. It represents the whirlwind she got caught up in so quickly leaving her to only know that whirlwind, she couldn’t leave till it was too late; she was already in love with her Master and in lust for the pain.
Trust was the topic of the third and final letter in the Master Letters collection. She shows this through lines in the letter, “-but if I had the Beard on my cheek- like you- and you- had Daisy’s petals- and you cared so for me- what would become of you? Could you forget me in fight- or flight- or the foreign land?” (Master, if you saw a bullet). She is asking him in this line, if the roles were reversed would you lust for this love, this relationship? Or would you forget us and move on to a new Master? The foreign land is a metaphor she uses for a new Master because this Master/Submissive lifestyle is one that is foreign to her. As in all BDSM relationships, trust is essential and Dickinson is asking, would he trust her with this power, this control if she was him. She also shows evidence of trust in the line, “I waited a long time – Master –but I can wait more – wait till my hazel hair is dappled “ “Master, if you saw a bullet”. She has waited incredibly long for this Master to appear in her life and now that she has completely and utterly given herself to him, she would wait forever for him. She trusts that this lifestyle is something worth waiting for. The pain she loves is worth trusting in and is shown in the line, “One drop more from the gash that stains your Daisy’s bosom –then would you believe? Thomas’ faith in anatomy –was stronger than his faith in faith.” This example that she presents her Master with is saying if I had a gash in my heart would you believe my trust, my faith? She uses this example because her Master believed in the faith of anatomy more so than his faith in faith, or faith in her. BDSM relationships are about building trust through risky sexual behaviors so the third letter leads us to inference that it was before much intimacy had begun because of her frequent requests of trust from her Master. Though all three letters detail her passionate and painful lifestyle at this time with her Master through her passion, love, and trust for him.
BDSM is apparent in many things from Emily Dickinson’s three Master Letters to the 2015 movie Fifty Shades of Grey. Fifty Shades of Grey is a movie detailing the BDSM lifestyle of the fictional couple, Anatasia, Ana, Steele and Christian Grey. Ana and Christian’s relationship is much like Dickinson and her Master’s. Ana, though leery of a BDSM relationship in the beginning of the movie, quickly comes to trust Christian through sexually risky behaviors then begins to love him. Much like Dickinson’s Master, he doesn’t tell her his feelings of love or lust or even trust. Dickinson details in her second letter a feeling mutual to Ana and Christian’s relationship, “who bends her life smaller to his it’s meeker, lower every day –who only asks –a task –who something to do for love of it –some little way she cannot guess to make the master glad” “Oh –did I offend it”. This shows how both women did things for their Master’s in love, only to wonder if they actually appeased their Master’s. But as in all BDSM relationships, obidence is key and neither woman dared to ask their Master if their acts were making him, and keeping him happy. So in Dickinson’s case she wrote these letters and never published them or sent them and Ana spent her time trying to find clarity in reading and writing about BDSM relationships. Both woman shared a bond with their Master and both found common ground in these sadistic sexual acts. Ana saw her relationship with Christian to be mutually loving when he told her his feelings after a sexual encounter but also saw it to be unhealthy. Especially when she had to keep all her feelings bottled up because he did and ultimately he was the one in control, he was her Master. Dickinson saw her relationship in the same light, in her first letter she begs him to tell her how he is in the line, “Will you tell me, please to tell me, soon as you are well” “Dear Master I am ill”. In some circumstances, Dickinson’s Master does relay his feelings to her and is shown in her letters. A BDSM relationship takes a certain emotional, physical, and mental toll on the submissive. In this case the submissives, Ana and Dickinson share a little bit about the toll the lifestyle took on them. Ana, a shy bookworm falls headfirst into a deep, sadomasochistic relationship with no knowledge on the lifestyle. The emotional toll it took on her was great, and is seen in the movie when she appears to be more emotional and sad than usual. She even cries as Christian beats her with a belt near the end of the movie because she likes it but doesn’t feel like she should like this pain. Dickinson also has an emotional toll that’s been taken on her as well. In the first letter she writes, “-I wish that I were great, like Mr. Michael Angelo, and could paint for you.” “Dear Master I am ill”. It shows that he has made her feel so small and so worthless, that she doesn’t even feel worthy of painting him unless she’s one of the greatest painters of all time. These unrealistic expectations were thrust on to both women because of this BDSM lifestyle and the expectations it must live up to. Ana and Dickinson were both expected to conform to the will of their Master’s with no hesistations or questions asked. The emotional toll is only one aspect of the relationship, because it also took a mental and physical toll as well. Mentally, these women were both beaten down and shaped to only see what was best for their Master and do what was asked of them. They were stripped of free will and in being stripped of free come no thought. No thought about when to eat, when to relax, when to work, or even when to sleep. They were taught all these things will come at a time when your Master allows it, leaving them mentally bare and naked in front of the world. Physically, on the other hand, both women were hurt at the hand of love. From this the question arises, does pain really mean love? Or were these men just sadists who liked hurting women? For Dickinson, the pain meant love and is seen in the first letter in the line, “I would that all I love, should be weak no more.” “Dear Master I am ill”. She loved him enough to find a way to love the pain, to be weak no more. In Ana’s case, the movie details her physical toll by her accepting the pain just like Dickinson and even more so a physical toll by her lack of appetite throughout the movie. This trait is most likely characterized by her stress, emotions, and mentality leading to her not eating. As anyone can imagine, a BDSM lifestyle is something that leaves a toll on your body, your emotions, and your mentality which is what led up these women writing about there experiences, real and fictional.
Throughout the years culture has impacted BDSM and people who practice BDSM lifestyles. It has become more normalized in society in the recent years so much so that a movie was made about it and shown in public theaters. But, times were not always like this, in Dickinson’s time, the 19th century, it was not a normal practice. In fact, BDSM wasn’t heard of in society, it has only been till recently that researchers and philosphers discovered Dickinson’s Master Letters and felt comfortable enough to speculate and make arguments about them. In the 19th century, sex did not equal love. Sex was a tool used to populate society and that was all. It was also seen as a duty for women, not a pleasure. Having said, Emily Dickinson never married and never bore children but wrote long magnificent love poems about many men and women. Although, she was known long after her death for these extravagant love poems, what many people did not know was that she hid her sexually submissive life from her poetry because it was not widely accepted in society. People during this era did not discuss sex or sexuality, and sex out of marriage itself was considered a sin and shamed many families of people during this time.
BDSM relationships of the 21st century have become more prevalent and accepted because of the different movements advocating for sexual freedoms. BDSM is so accepted that the movie Fifty Shades of Grey, was released in public movie theaters around the world and there are millions of websites dedicated to the knowledge of BDSM. You can even find bars and clubs in nearby cities that are for meeting people who are looking for a submissive or Master. Today’s society is more accepting now than ever for sexual preferences like BDSM, unlike in Dickinson’s time of the 19th century.
Again, imagine being a relationship built on undivided trust and attention, an undying will to last, and a dedication to sexual pleasure from both partners. Would you guess that this is the foundation of a BDSM lifestyle? Emily Dickinson defied society and society’s expectations for a young woman through her BDSM lifestyle that was documented in her three Master Letters. Today’s pop culture has accepted BDSM lifestyles to the point where they made a movie about them. We’ve learned throughout time that a BDSM relationship is bondage and submission, but also respect and trust. BDSM relationships happened in the 19th century, the 21st century is when we started talking about them.
The Life of Emily Dickinson and Her Poem Hope is That Creature with Feathers
Emily Dickinson is one of America’s most influential poets. This 19th-century poet, whose mysterious life challenged the prevailing definitions of poetry, tried new expressions to free language from its traditional limitations. It carved a new model of the character of the speaker. Speakers in her poems have a keen eye to see the boundaries that can cross in their societies and the imaginary ways of crossing them. She was a passionate poet. Perhaps that has emerged in her hair as in her life. She once wrote, “I find euphoria to live, just to feel enough to live in it.”
Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Massachusetts. Yet she spent her life in isolation. She refused to exchange greetings with others and, in the late days of her life tended to stay in her room. Emily’s acquaintances knew she was writing poetry. Although, she has written about 1,800 poems. She has published only a few fingers in her life. Nevertheless, after her death, her younger sister, Lavonia, discovered her poems. Her first bureau appeared in 1890. In 1955, she printed her entire poetry works. Although many critics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not give her the right but saw her poetry somewhat cool, she is now taking her place among the great American poets. Dickinson died on May 15, 1886, from Bright’s kidney disease. Her physician stated that the accumulation of psychological stress she had accompanied throughout her life contributed to her early death.
Hope is That Creature with Feathers
The poem by the American poet Emily Dickinson, ‘Hope is that creature with feathers,’ is the sixth part of a long poem called: ‘Life.’ This poem embodies the abstract idea of ‘hope’ in the free spirit of the bird. Emily used photography and metaphor to help her describe why ‘hope is that feathered object?”
In the first passage of the poem, Emily used a figurative picture of a bird to describe an abstract idea, hope. The hope, of course, is not a living being, but by adding feathers to him, Emily began to create a picture of him in our minds. The image of the feathers itself evokes the idea of hope. Feathers represent hope because feathers enable you to fly and offer a picture of flying away to reach a new hope and a new beginning. In contrast, the image of ‘broken feathers’ or ‘broken wings’ presents the image of a needy person who has been beaten and oppressed in this life, as his wings have been broken and no longer have the power to hope.
In the second passage, ‘Who degrades the soul’, Emily continues to use the bird’s image to describe hope, implying that it degrades our souls. The soul is home to hope. This image can be seen as a metaphor. Hope is in our souls like a bird that lands on its nest.
In the third and fourth passage, ‘The melody sings without words, and never stops’, the poet used the image of a bird that continues to twitter to represent eternal hope. Birds never stop singing a song of hope.
In the fifth passage, ‘It becomes prettier at the time of the storm,’ Emily describes the song of the bird as becoming prettier when the wind blows, and covers the sound of this wind. This house conjures up the image of a vocalist, whose voice surpasses the sound of storms, and promises to end the storm soon.
Dickinson used the next three verses metaphorically to describe the feeling of the person destroying hope: That strong storm That can embarrass that little bird Which helped make many feel warm
A person who destroys hope with a storm of anger and passivity feels the pain it causes to others. Emily has used a strong image of a person embarrassing a bird that gives hope, warmth, and comfort, causing pain and pain to others.
In the first house of the last passage, “I Heard That Bird in Cold, Cold Land,” Emily offers another reason for hope. He hears even in cold and sad lands. Hope is an eternal feeling everywhere. We can hear this chant even ‘in the distant seas.’ Hope exists for everyone.
In the last two houses, Emily tells us that the bird of hope does not wait for an interview or run after an interest by singing it: Never happened That asked me a crumb
Hope is a gift available to all humans. All we have to do is not to cut the wing of hope and let him freely fly and twitter. The song of hope heard everywhere such as in distant seas, cold areas, and in the worst storms. Hope is that chant that will never stop unless we force it.
The Descent into Death in I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain
It is difficult to imagine how we will one day die and what we will undergo through this process but in Emily Dickinson’s poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (Dickinson 42), it encaptures the complexity of death beautifully in only 20 lines. Like the first line of the poem suggests, here she depicts a depicts a funeral that is occuring within the speaker’s head and an unsettling progression of events based on it. There are many possibilities to what Dickinson was attempting to convey within the poem, the process of physical death and loss of consciousness, the deterioration of the mind, or possibly the perspective of the deceased at their own funeral. But the overarching theme that unites these interpretations is the descent into death. Whether it is the death of the mind, body, or soul, Dickinson uses the image of a funeral as an apparatus to describe the phenomenon of death through an extended metaphor. Dickinson has formed a truly unique poem filled with symbolism that breaks the boundaries of what death embodies.
The funeral that is described in the first stanza suggests that the speaker has lost something but what exactly is not described. However, throughout the poem, as the funeral progresses, we get a closer understanding of what the speaker is going through. In the first part of the poem, consciousness is still present, “That Sense was breaking through-” (1) but then in the second stanza, “My mind was going numb-” (8). The speaker then loses their grasp on reality, “Then Space-began to toll,” (12) until they find themselves alone in silence and then the descent comes to a conclusion with the last stanza as “I dropped down and down–And hit a world at every plunge” (18-19). Whether it is physically or mentally, the speaker is deteriorating as the chaos of the funeral within their mind continues. What Dickinson does that makes the poem truly unique is her ambiguity and her union of the physical and mental. We do not know what the funeral is for and her constant transition between the physical, mental, and even spiritual when the speaker refers to themselves makes the poem even more puzzling. The “Mourners to and fro” (2) and their treading can represent the internal pain of the speaker or it can also represent the actual people who are paying their respects at the memorial service. The setting of the poem is up for speculation making the entirety of the poem open for different interpretations.
The Feelings of the Speaker in I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain
The poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (340)” by the infamous Emily Dickinson suggests many topics such as entering a world of a psychotic episode, experiencing the death and/or burial of something within the mind, an explanation of the feeling of self obliteration, and the showing of feeling complete isolation and the fear and panic that lingers with it, but with such a poet like her, as well as poetry itself, the poem means something different to each person who dares to enter such a world.
The speaker seems to be suffering from psychosis as they seem to travel through different realms of their mind, and the poet doesn’t offer much information if any at all to the physical environment. Being sensible, emotionally intense, feeling isolated completely, as well as madness, all pertain to the persona of the poem, for the narrator explains very intricately this experience and how it’s going play by play while also showing the depth in it all. Though the narrator and poet have their own roles in poetry, the two are relatively the same in Dickinson’s “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (340)”. In fact, Dickinson’s works often reflect her true self. As an excellent thinker, observant hawk, and in her own isolated world, you can really see Emily Dickinson through her poetry, that is, if you can comprehend it. She has gone through hell and back and tells us her tales of woe through her poetry. This poem in particular shows her more evolved side.
The third and fourth lines give the reader so much in those few words: Kept treading – treading – till it seemed That sense was breaking through. The beating pulse of her mind and thoughts shows the reader just how much is really going on in her head that a stranger on the street would not be able to see. The title of the poem — and the first line — gives the reader a little push through the door and to help them enter into the chaotic world of the speaker’s mind. In this twenty line, five stanza poem, a lot is going on. In stanzas 2-4, the rhyme scheme is ABCB, and the first and last stanza don’t have any type of rhyme scheme. There is a constant order of lines in each stanza which is four. The use of dashes between ideas both makes a point and separates ideas to make the reader take in all the things going simultaneously. In the first two stanzas, the third lines in Emily Dickinson’s poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (340)” are the same and make a point at the beginning of the poem. “Kept treading – treading – till it seemed / That sense was breaking through” (lines 3-4) and ” Kept beating – beating – till I thought / My mind was going numb” (7-8) Enjambment runs throughout the majority of the poem even though there is no legitimate punctuation except for dashes between thoughts. In “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)”, it begins with a metaphor comparing the mental situation of the speaker with a funeral “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” (1). Though she may write some very intense poetry, Emily Dickinson sneaks in a little informality into the third and seventh lines with the word “till” “Kept treading – treading – till it seemed” (3) and “Kept beating – beating – till I thought” (7). The poet throws a lot at the reader with the scene. At first we’re at a funeral, and then we’re going more insane and losing consciousness at the same time.
Imagery is one of the key elements that Emily Dickinson uses to explain with detail what the heck is going on inside a chaotic mind. To tie it all up, she sprinkles personification throughout. In lines 6-7, the funeral service is explained as a drum beating. Line 12 tells how “space” “tolls” after being wrecked solitary with silence. Silence is said to be wrecked and as “some strange Race” with the speaker in lines 15-16. Towards the end of the poem, line 17 states how the speaker falls through the realms of their mind as this “Plank in Reason” breaks. This is perfect for a poem like this, for the concepts like comforting silence and pulsing beats of a funeral service couldn’t be explained better. The last line of the poem is ended with an off and a little ominous note “And Finished knowing – then -” (20). She has possibly reached full insanity and lost control of knowing what’s what.
There are many interpretations of the last line so not much can be said for sure. After reading through the poem and taking a long, meandering path through the speaker’s brain/mind, you can tell that it gives off an eerie, depressing, chaotic, and frenzied (if you will) vibe. Even in the first line, it shows it. Words like funeral, mourners, treading, numb, beating, sense, creak, soul, space, toll, heavens, solitary, silence, wrecked, and reason all give off the vibes listed above. In order to help the reader focus on what’s going on in this crazed poem, the poet uses a continuous plot up until the point where the speaker “Finished knowing” (20).
The poem starts off very straightforward and sets the serious mood with “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” (1). “And Mourners to and fro / Kept treading – treading – till it seemed / That Sense was breaking through” (2-4) Here, the mourners are pacing before the service starts as most would do at funerals. Their pacing is so loud that the narrator almost has the sense (reality) knocked back into them. Dickinson’s use of capitalization in her poetry makes a point and brings the reader to really think about what’s so important about a word capitalized that typically doesn’t need to be. As you can see, the word mourners and sense are both capitalized possibly as a focus point. “And when they all were seated, / A Service, like a Drum – / Kept beating – beating – / till I thought / My mind was going numb -” (5-8) Now the service is actually starting. The chaos in the brain is so pulsating like a drum, and everything that’s going on is getting overwhelming. In the previous stanza, Dickinson refers to the setting as her brain, but as things intensify, the sensation of the funeral becomes more mental as she now calls it her mind.
When she mentions the mind going numb, we now know that it’s too late. No returns. The door back to reality is now closed, and we’re going downhill. “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,” (9-12) The funeral is almost over now, and the box (casket) is being carried out to be buried. They “creak across” the soul, so they’re probably putting the dirt on top of the casket now unless she means that it’s sort of a mocking thing to do. Notice how the speaker recognizes the “Boots of Lead”, so this probably has happened more than once which explains how the speaker seems overpowered by this situation and mocked by the people.
The speaker is slowly losing their mind again. Space is beginning to toll, so it’s coming a little bit at a time. We’re now at the start of another realm that has even more twists and turns. “As all the Heavens were a Bell, / And Being, but an Ear, / And I, and Silence, some strange Race, / Wrecked, solitary, here -” (13-16) We’ve now reached the deepest part of the speaker’s mind. There’s nothing to hear except for the silence surrounding, and silence is the only thing to accompany her. She’s now comparing herself to silence stating they’re the same race and “Wrecked, solitary, here -“. We can only assume we are experiencing the depths of her mind as of now since she very vaguely explains that they are “here”. “And then a Plank in Reason, broke, / And I dropped down, and down – / And hit a World, at every plunge, / And Finished knowing – then -” (17-20) When this plank in reason breaks, it all goes down. As if the floor is sanity, it breaks and the speaker completely loses it. She keeps plummeting and hitting worlds as she descends into madness. The last line is very complicated to interpret. She may have passed out, made the last of a thought or part of herself (since this is a funeral we’re talking about), or might have reached the gates of insanity itself (and now she cannot make sense of anything anymore hence explaining how she finished knowing).
From the first line to the last in Emily Dickinson’s poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)”, I can feel my emotions pouring out as I speak her words. Sure, I have felt the emotions of this poem for years now, but when put in these words, I feel like it’s a whole new world. Emily Dickinson made me see emotions so vividly rather than feeling them first hand when I read this poem. Where has she been my whole life? Normally, I wouldn’t have compared my mind to a funeral, but reading this was a revelation in a sense. To me, the last stanza was the most powerful because of the deep plunge into wherever it is that the speaker imagines as insanity. Moreover, this poem is relatable, eerie, depressing, and crazy, and now it’s one of my favorites. Works CitedDickinson, Emily. “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, (340)” Poetry Out Loud Website 2018 http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/poems/detail/45706 Accessed 9 January 2018
Self Destruction and Insanity in Dickinson’s I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain
The unconscious refers to experiences that are beyond one’s control and that occur without one being aware. Within those with mental illnesses, many people feel disconnected from themselves and begin to feel a deep sense of loneliness and anxiety. During one’s fall into madness, they quickly becomes overwhelmed by the irrationality of the unconscious. Similarly, the concept of the chaos of the unconscious and the horror of descending madness is prominent in the poem, I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain, by Emily Dickinson. The poem traces the speaker’s mind as the speaker experiences a metaphorical funeral for her sanity. At first, the speaker feels the weight and pain of her impending mental collapse. Shortly after the beginning of the funeral, the speaker becomes numb to the feelings of pain and terror. In the end, her last standing piece of normality and soundness breaks beneath her, releasing her into a new world of madness. Gothic literature in this time period focused on the supernatural, madness and death and became essential for showing people that there was a way to explore the dark and irrational. Dickinson highlights aspects of dark romanticism and gothic literature, including madness and hysteria. In the poem, I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain, Emily Dickinson follows the speaker’s plunge into madness and the terrors of mental destruction as reason turns to delusion, ultimately highlighting the loss of self that comes with mental insanity.
Pain and Suffering
Dickinson uses a metaphor of physical mourners embodying the speaker’s impending collapse in the first two stanzas to illustrate the endless pain and suffering that comes with the boundless weight of impending mental collapse. In the second line of the first stanza, the speaker begins to set the scene of the physical funeral and describes the people within her mind: “And Mourners to and fro / Kept treading – treading – till it seemed” (II.2-4). The “Mourners” going back in forth in her brain show the physical weight the people, representing the pain that is weighing her down. The capitalization both personifies the illusion of the mourners in her mind and emphasizes how they are the only other substantial being within her imagination. The mourners also represent the events that bring on the speaker’s collapse. These events are continuous within the speakers mind, similar to how they are repeatedly “treading” to and fro within the stanza. Moreover, the repeating of treading further shows how unhappy she is and how she feels as though she is stuck in an endless cycle. The dashes between the words slow the pace and heighten the pain the speaker feels. Further in the poem, in the sixth line of the second stanza, the speaker begins to describe a metaphorical drum to emphasize the mental toll the service is taking on her sanity: “A Service, like a Drum – / Kept beating – beating – till I thought / My mind was going numb -” (II.6-8). The simile of the service being like a drum shows how there are no words or other sensations within her mental funeral, only the feelings of a repetitive drum. Continuing, similar to the tread of the mourners in the first stanza, the repeated beating of the drums conveys the sadness awake in her mind as she begins to feel that her mind is going numb. The word “Drum” is capitalized in order to personify it, showing its physical power and endless toll on her mental state. Within this stanza the word “mind” is changed from the previous use of the word brain, making it a more intellectual experience. The brain is visible and tangible, whereas the mind is the invisible and focuses on feeling, and imagination. Her mind going numb illustrates that she is numb to her feelings, her consciousness and ability to acknowledge herself and the outside world. In conclusion, the use of the physical mourners and the repetition helps to convey the boundless pain and suffering that results from the unmanageable weight of mental insanity.
Isolation and Detachment
Additionally, using the personification of silence in the fourth stanza, Dickinson emphasizes the feelings of alienation and detachment from oneself as the individual becomes numb to the feelings of grief and terror. At the beginning of the fourth stanza, the poem shifts and begins describing mental sensations over physical experiences as one’s body can no longer control its senses: “As all the Heavens were a Bell, / And Being, but an Ear,” (II.13-14). In order to show her brain moving towards death, “Heavens” is capitalized to personify it, further demonstrating a sense of hysteria. Overwhelmed by her inescapable mental insanity, the speaker is reduced to nothing and becomes void of all ” but an ear’. The word “being” describes a human being, the being, being only an ear shows how she becomes a passive receiver of noise, not being able to control what she hears, similar to how she is not able to control what happens to her sanity. In doing this, Dickinson effectively creates a sensation of panic and helplessness. The words “Bell” and “Ear” are capitalized to personify them. The capitalization of “Ear” suggests that she has become the ear and thus has no control over her senses. The “Bell” is personified as a separate being, calling to her, creating a more religious experience than earlier in the stanza. Continuing in the fourth stanza, the speaker begins to understand her isolation and feel the heavy burden of silence: “And I, and Silence, some strange Race, / Wrecked, solitary, here – ” (II.15-16). Silence is described as an empty feeling, where her mind is an empty world filled only by sound. The word “Silence” is capitalized because it is personified as a physical being that surrounds her and does not allow her to speak. The “strange race” exemplifies how she has alienated herself and she no longer feels human, she feels separated from any sense of normalcy that may have once existed. Her descent into irrationality separates her from others, making her a member of “some strange race.” Her alienation is indicated by the overwhelming silence. Her use of “wrecked” and “solitary” display how the speaker is aware of her own mental state and that she is alone and destroyed. In the end, the use of the personification of silence illustrates the feelings of isolation and detachment from oneself as one becomes paralyzed to the feelings around them.
Destruction of Sanity and Rationality
Subsequently, Dickinson personifies a broken plank as her last fragment of rationality in the final stanza to display the destruction of sanity and stability that result as madness and terror usurp the individual. The speaker begins to describe her physical loss of sanity as she is released into the worlds of delirium and reads, “And then a Plank in Reason, broke, / And I dropped down, and down – ” (II.17-18). According to Dickinson’s lexicon, reason represents logic, rational thinking and mental construct. Reason holds the connotation of rationality and intelligence, so, when the plank, or the thing holding up her reason or sanity breaks in her mind, she loses her normality. By “dropping” down, the speaker emphasizes how this is a fall into oblivion and a loss of consciousness. Her dropping down displays her going further into isolation and the repetition of down explains how her fall is never ending. At the end of the poem, the speaker concludes her final jump into insanity, describes her new levels of subconscious thought and reveals, “And hit a world, at every plunge, / And Finished knowing – then – ” (II.19-20). Her hitting other worlds shows her coming into contact with other irrational worlds now that her world of reason or world of rationality is destroyed. She comes into contact with different levels of her subconscious realities that greatly differ from the ordinary world she is familiar with. The word “plunge” is associated with a forceful speed and an act of plummeting into a world below. Her finishing knowing shows her full realization of her own loss of sanity. When “knowing” is finished, she illustrates how she taken over by physical and mental relief. The ending with “- then -,’ serves as the closure of the speaker’s descent to insanity. The dashes depict a sense of urgency that increased throughout the entirety of the poem, until the speaker is cut off and drops down into insanity. The ending with a dash leaves the poem to continue into the silence as the voice continues to echo and she passes into an empty void, from which she cannot return. The way in which Dickinson ends the poem proposes that the speaker has completely lost her rationality. Ultimately, the personification of a broken plank is used to display the weakness and complete loss of autonomy that result from a total destruction of sanity and rationality.
In the famous poem I Felt a Funeral, in my Brain, through the following of the speaker’s plunge into madness, Emily Dickinson expresses that the loss of self is created by the madness that comes with mental insanity. First, Dickinson uses the personification of mourners and the repetition of a drum to display the endless pain resulted from the endless weight of mental insanity. Then, the personification of silence and the use of an ear as a passive receiver of noise demonstrates the numbness to grief as a result of the feelings of alienation and detachment from oneself. Finally, using a broken plank of reason, Dickinson depicts the destruction of sanity due to terror taking over the individual. Through this poem Dickinson lays the foundation for postmodern poets to write on the topic of sanity and the perception of the individual. Postmodernism rejects the theories that science and reason explain all of reality. Dickinson’s ideas of madness and the unknown inner workings of the brain help to highlight that there is no absolute version of reality.
- Dickinson, Emily. The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1924;
- Bartleby.com, 2000. www.bartleby.com/113/. Emily Dickinson Archive. www.edickinson.org/words. Accessed 21 Oct. 2019.
Descent into Madness in The Yellow Wallpaper and I Felt a Funeral in my Brain
A theme of the descent into madness is developed both in Emily Dickenson’s “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” and in Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper. Each story gradually depicts progressing insanity of its main character; which is faster in “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the idea of how the lack of human interaction and change in environment can and will lead to a mental breakdown and the loss of yourself, as depicted when the woman in the wallpaper controlled the narrator’s physical and mental doings. “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” are similar because they both depict a descent into madness.
The Yellow Wallpaper
In “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Gilman, the Narrator is suffering from stress and was given bed rest as treatment. Throughout the story, the main characters journal entries became more and more elusive and incomprehensible with ramblings about the yellow wallpaper that she hated so much. From the beginning, she was writing full paragraphs and expressing her emotions, especially when she said “A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity–but that would be asking too much of fate!” This statement is taken from the very beginning of the story, but later on she becomes insane as seen when she said “‘I’ve got out at last,’ said I, ‘in spite of you and Jane. And I’ve pulled off most of the paper, so you can’t put me back!’ Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”
I Felt a Funeral in my Brain
This descent into madness is also portrayed in “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” by Emily Dickinson. A funeral marks the passage from one state to another (life to death), a parallel to the speaker’s passing from one stage to another (sanity to insanity). However, the poet is not observing the funeral but is feeling it. She is both observer of the funeral and participant, indicating that the Self is divided. By the end of the poem, the Self will have shattered into pieces or chaos. The mourners “treading” indicates a pressure that is pushing her down. The speaker has a momentary impression that reason ‘sense’ is escaping or being lost. The pressure of the treading is reasserted with the repetition, ‘beating, beating.’ This time her mind, the source of reasoning, goes ‘numb,’ a further deterioration in her condition. The last two lines of stanza four assess her condition; she sees herself as ‘wrecked, solitary.’ Her descent into irrationality separates her from other human beings, making her a member of ‘some strange race.’ Her alienation and inability to communicate are indicated by her being enveloped by silence. In the last stanza, Dicksinson uses the metaphor of standing on a plank or board over a precipice, to describe the speaker’s descent into irrationality. In other words, her hold on rationality was insecure, just as standing on a plan would feel insecure. She falls past ‘worlds,’ which may stand for her past; in any case, she is losing her connections to reality. Her descent is described as ‘plunges,’ suggesting the speed and force of her fall into psychological chaos, shown by the phrase ‘got through knowing’. The last word of the poem, ‘then–,’ does not finish or end her experience but leaves opens the door for the nightmare-horror of madness.
In conclusion, “The Yellow Wallpaper” and “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” are similar because they both depict a descent into madness. The theme of the descent into madness is developed both in Emily Dickenson’s “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain” and in Charlotte Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper. Each story gradually depicts progressing insanity of its main character; which is faster in “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the idea of how the lack of human interaction and change in environment can and will lead to a mental breakdown and the loss of yourself, as depicted when the woman in the wallpaper controlled the narrator’s physical and mental doings.
Imagery in I Felt a Funeral in my Brain by Emily Dickinson
Emily Dickinson’s, I Felt a Funeral in my Brain is an extremely somber poem which portrays a person who is going insane. The general overview of the poem is that there is a funeral being taken place in her brain. There is a funeral service going on, with mourners pacing back and forth. She describes the loud sounds she hears going on during the service. By the end of the funeral, she begins to imagine an empty world and her mind begins to fall down, ending with us not knowing what happened next. Dickinson’s poem is complex and is hard to grasp at first glance. To make it easier to understand the poem it needs to be analyzed and thought out.
The meter of Dickinson’s poem is iambic, which means it consists of a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed syllable. Every other line has six syllables per line, which the other lines have around eight syllables. The rhythm of the poem is all over the place with no clear rhyme scheme. The only consistent rhythm is that the poem opens and closes with slant rhymes. Slant rhymes are rhymes that have similar words but not identical sounds. Most slant rhymes are from words with identical consonants and different vowels, or even the other way around. For example, in the second and fourth line of the first stanza, Dickinson uses the words “fro” and “though.” These words sound similar but don’t actually rhyme.
Showing Importance of the Message
Dickinson also uses line breaks and dashes within her poem to stress what she is trying to portray. She adds dashes to give her control of the narrative and the rhythm of the poem. An example of this is in line 7, “Kept beating — beating — till I thought”, is what Dickinson writes. The dashes play a major role in the format of the poem and give the reader guidelines of when to pause and emphasizes the flow of the poem. The use of repetition and capitalization is also used a lot throughout the poem to show importance and enhance what she is trying to tell the reader. Personification is also another effect of capitalization in this poem. Capitalization makes lifeless words into living things.
The perspective of the poem comes from Dickinson herself, as the speaker. She is describing what is going on in her mind, without tangibly seeing it but feeling and imaging it. It shows her fast descent into madness which leads to ultimate darkness. It is a petrifying poem for both the speaker, as well as the reader. The speaker experiences the loss of self in the mayhem of the unconsciousness, and the reader experiences the speaker’s descending into madness and her feeling of going insane.
Metaphors are a massive factor in understanding the meaning of this poem. Dickinson uses metaphors to illustrate how she is feeling by comparing physical things to arbitrary ideas. The funeral represents the speaker’s feeling that she is dying and the reason she feels this unconsciousness. This is a simpler metaphor because funerals usually connotate to death. The funeral here marks the passage of the state of life to the state of death, as well from sanity to insanity, for the speaker. The speaker is both viewing the funereal while actively participating in it, showing that the “Self” is divided, ultimately shattering into pieces by the end of the poem and creating chaos. The whole funeral in the poem is a metaphor for the various stages of her mental breakdown.
Other metaphors in the poem include the mourners. The mourners express the pain the speaker is feeling. In lines 3 and 4, the speaker shares that the mourners are “treading — treading — till it seemed that Sense was breaking through —”. This is the pressure that is pushing the speaker down into this downward spiral. There is a slight moment where she feels “Sense” breaking through but then in the second stanza, she feels the pressure again. The “Box” mentioned in the third stanza is referring to a casket and the “Boots of Lead” is the loud noise she repeatedly hears. The “Reason” is the floor of her mind which breaks, causing her to fall. The “Worlds” she is referring to in the final stanza are metaphors to her past life experiences and memories that flood her mind as she is descending into madness.
The poem ends in an unknowing manner. The reader doesn’t know what ultimately happens to the speaker. The poem ends off with, “And Finished knowing—then—.” Then what? Is she dead? Was it real or was it all just a dream? Dickinson leaves it up to the reader’s imagination to decide how the story ends.
Emerging Freedom in The Female Poet
In early America, to capture the feat of being female poet was extremely rare and was no easy task. Phyllis Wheatley and Emily Dickinson challenged what it meant to be a good poet, though for two completely different reasons. In Wheatley’s poetry, religious repetition and the extended metaphor of refined sugar point to this poet’s structured-drive towards equal freedom for all, whereas Dickinson’s poetry utilizes syntax and personification to argue escaping society for a life of happy isolation is the only true freedom she desires.
As one of the first, successful African poets, Wheatley utilized the education her master, ‘graciously,’ allowed her to have to her fullest capabilities. Her poem, “On Being Brought from Africa,” is perfect in both rhyme and meter illustrating her high-level of schooling and intellect. Wheatley holds a consistent and very structured rhyme scheme for the fullness of her poem. For example, in her opening line, “Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land/ Taught my benighted heart to understand,” Wheatley does not stray from the perfect and specific end rhyme of “land” and “understand” nor from the five stressed and unstressed syllables of the lines (13). The heroic couplets and exact meter were very common for the time-period, and Wheatley did not shy away from hoisting her intellect in the air. By employing these scholarly tools, Wheatley emerges as a serious and credible poet, when, in reality, she and the other people of color like her were seen as nothing more than chattel property. Gaining this credibility allows for her readers to acknowledge the gap of equality between the Africans being brought over and their Christian masters as shock would have rang out among the masses of White elites who were reading a female, African, slaves’ poems for the first time.
Wheatley did not just prove her credibility and hope for equality through her form but also through her figurative language. Identifying her race’s hope for freedom as the Lord’s redemption, Wheatley starts by comparing the black race as, “black as Cain” (13). Biblically, Cain is the son of Adam and Eve who committed the first cardinal sin of murder as he slew his brother. Illustrating the connection between the first cardinal sinner and the black race, as a whole, isolates society’s view of their slaves. This view held African slaves as being compared to the very sin of Cain. For if whiteness is deemed pure, by God, then, in opposition, blackness, must be the ultimate color of sin as it is the darkest. Comparing the color of skin to the cardinal sinner depicts Wheatley’s understanding of not only religious texts but also of where and how her race stood in society. Africans were viewed as the lowest on the American hierarchy, and religiously, had to be cursed of something, by God, because of the darkness of their skin color. This simile not only exemplifies Wheatley’s biblical education but also her perspective as a colored woman and the oppression that is granted any individual like her for being born Black.
Wheatley does not stop there though as she continues utilizing analogies to describe the only way to escape this bondage of sinful color and slavery: Christian conversion. Wheatley addresses this escape by comparing conversion to the refining of sugar cane. In the last two lines of the poem, Wheatley pens, “ Negroes, black as Cain, / May be refin’d, and join th’ angelic train”(13). Sugar cane, that begins very bulky and dark, eventually can become white as snow through the refinement process, and just like the sugar cane practice that many slaves were accustomed too, the Black slaves have the opportunity to accept the deliverance of God and gain the freedom of salvation on the same train as their white masters. Wheatley compares the refining of sugar to the African slave’s refinement from ‘Black pagan-worshippers’ as a way of personalizing the anecdote for any Africans who may have caught wave of her writings, and, in likeness, show that a freedom from this life of bondage is available through her Lord, regardless of skin color and background. Slave or free, and black or white, are all capable of saving, and equal in God’s eyes. To reach freedom for Wheatley, meant reaching salvation with God. For there, her chains of blackness and slavery can no longer bind her or her race.
Wheatley was not the only woman to address the ideals of freedom in early American society. Emily Dickinson also desired a freedom from her figurative societal chains. However, the freedom she sought was from societal norms and the public eye. Breaking some of the poetic rules of structure and form, such as her irregular syntax, Dickinson exerts her desire for a paradise in isolation and freedom from outsiders.
Dickinson is known by many for her outlandish use of uncommon syntax and figurative language. In her poem, “The Soul selects her own Society,” Dickinson personifies the “Soul” as one who “ shuts the Door” allowing the abstract soul the advantages of humanistic actions like being able to physically shut the door(167). This gives the Soul a power of strength and freewill to do what it pleases. In this instance, the Soul is the gatekeeper for the poem’s speaker, presumably Dickinson, on who may enter into her sanctuary and who is not allowed inside the door. Granting this abstract concept humanly form proves to the reader that Dickinson is fighting for her right to choose on the members of her company, and regardless of their elite status, her inner-being will not let them enter, because she has the autonomy to decide for herself who has access and who is cast outside of the gates.
Dickinson also utilizes the art of repetition. In this same poem, Dickinson repeats the word, “Unmoved,” in the second out of three stanzas, in order to exert her freedom from societal orders and positioning. Regardless of who knocks on the door and tries to enter the gates, the speaker remains, “Unmoved”(167). ”. Repeating this word exemplifies Dickinson’s stance and craving for that freedom in isolation. She is uncompromising on her stance of wanting to be alone and selecting the few who can grace her prescence, much like Wheatley was sure of her ability to attain freedom through religious salvation. The poem’s, “Soul,” metaphorically has a nation at her doorsteps, but she chooses her own select society, and needs, nor desires, no more.
The syntax in Dickinson’s poems is what distinguishes her from the likes of her predecessors and Wheatley. She exploits what looks, at first glance, as very random commas, dashes, capitalization, and so on, but for Dickinson, nothing is random. In, “The Soul selects her own Society,” Dickinson artfully capitalizes, “Soul” to personify the abstract; inserts dashes to interrupt the flow of her rhythmic meter, and eliminates the need for ending punctuation. By unyielding the very form that was common in her day, Dickinson is defying the odds of what poetry can be. She keeps to a very specific meter but allows the dashes to interrupt that consistency of rhythm as a way of pointing out her awareness of the day’s poetic structure, but her defiance and desire to be different and free from the societal rules. Eradicating the need for ending punctuation, such as periods, question marks, and the like, Dickinson creatively allows the dash to be the only one she needs just as, “the Soul” of the poem needs and “Chooses” only one (167). The dash allows the reader to understand the poem as one, long, cognitive thought with only short breaks in-between the phrasing. Dickinson capitalizes on her ideal world of selecting only one or two members who can enter her society, just as she craftily only chose the dash to separate her jargon as a way of interpreting her poem as one thought and supporting her argument of a select few being all she needs. This is very unlike the structured meter in Wheatley’s poem and very uncommon for her era.
Dickinson’s application of the dash conveys her insubordination to the societal norms of what poetry is and desire for her ideal freedom from the outside world. Wheatley and Dickinson prove that even early American, female poets have a voice that needs to be heard. They both utilize their educations to rhetorically question some of the oppressive natures of society and set ideals on what will overcome these negative aspects of humanity. They both are uncompromising on what will make them truly free. For Wheatley, she believes her salvation sets her as equal and free as any white man or woman, and Dickinson sees isolation and keeping her mind to herself as the only possible freedom from society’s advances. Whereas, Wheatley utilizes a very structured and formed poetic alleyway to this freedom of salvation, Dickinson opposes those structures and turns them upside-down with her syntax and personification. The fight for freedom unites Wheatley and Dickinson, while their style of writing defines them.