Portrayal of Insanity in I Felt a Funeral in my Brain

February 6, 2019 by Essay Writer

I Felt a Funeral in my Brain presents a narrative image of one slowly descending into madness and gives the reader a first person outlook on the whole ordeal. This poem, written by Emily Dickinson, a depressed antisocial poet, was written in 1862 in the solitude of her own home. Dickinson uses metaphors and imagery of funerals, planks, and mourners to describe the situation at hand. The main theme of this poem is one’s journey into madness, from the beginning where “Sense” (line 4) is still reasonable, until the end, where “a Plank of Reason broke” (line 17). Throughout the poem, Dickinson tells a story, not from her own experience, but rather from her imagination and contemplations over a loss of reason and insanity. This expository poem I Felt a Funeral in my Brain gives Dickinson’s view that one’s journey into insanity is originated by ones imagination by using imagery, metaphors, and a narrative story. From the first stanza of I Felt a Funeral in my Brain, Emily Dickinson uses morbid metaphors in her narrative. From the first line, one can tell that it is not a literal funeral, but instead a metaphorical death. Dickinson is using the metaphor of a funeral to represent that part of her, most specifically her reason, is dying. Dickinson presents this poem in such a way as to think this situation is happening to her. When she says “I felt a Funeral in my Brain” (line 1), she is not saying that feels like it is in her brain; instead it is part of her. She uses the image of “mourners to and fro” (line 2) to show that her thoughts are restless and jumbled. When she mentions the constant treading in line three, this can be explained as her thoughts metaphorically racing inside her head. The line, “That Sense was breaking through” (line 4) seems as if she is trying to gather her thoughts but her reason is slowly giving away. This first stanza directs the reader into a melancholy state of mind by using a metaphor of a funeral and imagery of the senses to convey her ideas.In the second stanza of I Felt a Funeral in my Brain, Emily Dickinson plays on the human senses to draw the reader into the poem. She leads into the second stanza by saying “and when” (line 5), which shows the reader this is a narrative poem. In the sixth line, the poet refers to the service being “like a Drum.” This is unusual, because funerals are a quiet event and therefore drums are not usually acceptable in this sort of setting. However, Dickinson could be relating the drums to a headache because her thoughts and reason are both swarming around in her brain. Next, she says her head is “beating-beating- till I thought my mind was going numb” (lines 7-8). This shows that her brain is starting to numb, and while the pain is leaving, her sensations of her reason are diminishing. Through this stanza, the reader can see the open progression of Dickinson’s dwindling reason.Dickinson completes the metaphoric funeral by placing her unreasoned self into a coffin and closes off any hope for the restoration of reason. She begins the third stanza with the words “now then” (line 9) which continues her narrative. In this stanza, she is using the metaphorical funeral by showing how she is being put into the coffin, left, and the emptiness in her head is challenging her reason yet again. She mentions a religious term in line ten when she says they “creak across my Soul.” Her soul symbolizes the ground on which the funeral has taken place; it is the last solid part of her reason and self since the rest of her is left for dead. One thing she is certain of is the sounds she hears while in her metaphoric coffin. She says she hears the pallbearers placing her in the coffin and walks over her soul “with those same Boots of Lead, again” (line 11). The word “again” is important because this appears to the reader that she still holds onto her five senses. It is also important because it indicates that she has heard these “boots of lead” before, sometime in her life span, however she cannot recall when or where she has these recollections. Finally, she ends the stanza with saying, and “then Space-began to toll” (line 12). Because everyone has finally left, she is abandoned with her own thoughts and the emptiness is taking its strain on her brain. This stanza begins the rapid departure of her brain and is continued in stanza four.From the lonely emptiness ending in stanza three, Dickinson advances in her forlorn state and uses metaphors to describe her predicament in stanza four. She compares heaven and earth when she says, “as all the Heavens were a Bell” (line 13) and symbolizes the noise to be church bells ringing for the death of her sanity. The bell is another repetitive term such as the treading and beating mentioned earlier before. These lines could be the most important lines in the poem because it shows the passing of her reason into a world of metaphors and similes that only she can understand. Dickinson then realizes how far she is cut off from the human race when she writes, “and I, and Silence, some strange Race” (line 15). This shows the bleakness of her situation; she is so segregated from the rest of the human race, “silence” is her only companion left. She describes her rationality in saying, “wrecked, solitary, here” (line 16). While her thoughts are not running rampantly through her brain, she is now alone and her brain is separated from the sensible world that she once knew. This stanza completely cuts the poet off from anything realistic and leaves her in her own world of solitude. Emily Dickinson finishes her poem by losing all consciousness of her reason and leaves almost an unsettling taste in the reader’s mind. “And then a Plank in Reason, broke” (line 17) shows that she still had a piece of reason left, but it is now gone for good. She is dropped from the one piece she had left and has lost all rational support. It is then noted that she “hit a World, at every plunge” (19). This shows that she can see other worlds in the sense of madness and can realize things she never understood before. The final line of the poem, “and finished knowing-then” (line 20) supports the idea that she cannot contain any more knowledge because she is now fully insane. The poem is wrapped up quite abruptly with the last word “then.” There is no clear ending to this poem, however, some interpretations could be that she gets amnesia, she dies at the end of the poem, or she was dead at the beginning, she just did not know. I Felt a Funeral in my Brain leaves the reader wanting a more ameliorative ending. I Felt a Funeral in my Brain introduces more questions throughout the poem than it answers, and leaves the reader confused and checking her own sanity. Throughout the poem, Dickinson progresses with the loss of rationality. She uses many images, such as funerals, mourners, bells, and services to convey her ideas on sanity. She portrays the poem as a narrative, going from stanza to stanza describing the life forming details of her insanity. Overall, Emily Dickinson makes an effective case about the stages of becoming insane and the last phase that completes one’s brain from losing all reason.

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