An Insight into Dickinson's Portrayal of Death
Pale Death with impartial tread beats at the poor man's cottage door and at the palaces of kings. Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.)
Throughout the history of literature, it has often been said that "the poet is the poetry" (Tate, Reactionary 9); that a poet's life and experiences greatly influence the style and the content of their writing, some more than others. Emily Dickinson is one of the most renowned poets of her time, recognized for the amount of genuine, emotional insight into life, death, and love she was able to show through her poetry. Many believe her lifestyle and solitude brought her to that point in her writing. During Emily Dickinson's life, she suffered many experiences that eventually sent her into seclusion, and those events, along with her reclusiveness, had a great impact on her poetry. Emily Dickinson is well known for her poems on Death.
Death eventually comes to everyone, and yet it is a phenomenon shrouded in mystery. Scholars and scientists try to understand it, philosophers pose theories and conclusions about it, artists try to capture it between streaks of paint across a canvas, while poets like Emily Dickinson explore it's meaning and influence through verse. Death is like an outward rush into the unknown where there is nothing recognizable and nothing to cling to. The unknown is always feared, and since nothing is known about death or an afterlife, people fear it. What Dickinson's poetry delves into is the undeniable power of death to detach one from life and the pain and sorrow that accompanies it like a dark cloud above it's head. In "There's a Certain Slant of Light" , Dickinson uses nature as the backdrop for her description of death, and the elements to describe the silent pain that it brings with it. The poem appears to create some sort of setting for the reader in order to portray this. The sight of a funeral procession entering a cemetery is probably an apt description of this setting. The slant of light is used to portray a heavenly beam that falls on the earth and brings a gloomy feeling with it. It could be the finger of God beckoning to the deceased to come to the heavenly abode or a divine path showing him the road to heaven. However, the light possesses a sort of weightiness: That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes.
This heaviness in the light may refer to the undecipherable feelings that one has, when you lose someone close to you. The second and third stanzas of the poem bring out the true profundity of these mixed emotions. Furthermore, both light and air are portrayed as symbolic of God, so that they become agents through whom God imposes His Heavenly Hurt upon the speaker, or maims her with His imperial affliction. The Heavenly Hurt may be described as the deep sorrow and pain that one feels when faced by the death of one's near and dear ones. The hurt is not physical, but emotional and psychological. It is probably deep within the speaker's heart Where the Meanings, are
For, when someone is lost in love, deeply hurt or excessively happy, it is hard to describe what one exactly feels or understands where exactly these feelings are coming from. She still cannot pinpoint the source of her anxiety. It comes quietly, seemingly 'Sent us of the Air-' . Coming back to the setting of the cemetery, we can envision the speaker standing a short distance away from the grave watching the procession on its way. She beholds before her the entire landscape as she watches the mourners approaching. She captures the solemnity and motionlessness of death by implying that time appears to stop for death. When it comes, the Landscape listens-
Shadows-hold their breath
What Dickinson is trying to say is that death is an irrefutable fact of life. It comes to everyone (as Horace says) and the stagnancy of time revealed in the quote above is only a depiction of her thoughts....
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