Analysis: I Heard a Fly Buzz

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Timeless Identity

Jeff Hong

Editors play influential roles in literature. They can easily alter the overall atmosphere of literature or change the message behind it. Different versions of the poem “I heard a Fly buzz…” by Emily Dickinson demonstrate different caesura, capitalization and word usage. The 1955 edition by Thomas H. Johnson and the original version by Emily Dickinson portray almost identical ideas and emphasis through limited alteration of caesura and word capitalization in relation to death as somewhat unimportant event. Caesura is one of the most crucial elements in classic English poetry. It can either change the pace or the atmosphere of the work. Emily Dickinson uses caesura in her poem “Dying” to demonstrate death as a slow and unspiritual event. Both the 1955 edition and the original edition share the same style of caesura from the start to the end. In the original version, Dickinson uses a vast number of hyphens between sentences. For example, the first two sentences of the poem, “I heard a Fly buzz-when/ I died-”, depicts how the author uses hyphens between every phrase to portray short breaths of a dying individual. The author uses short breathed pace of the poem to describe the narrator’s slow process of death and nonspiritual side of death. In addition, the author implies how death does not contain any kind of sudden or spiritual endings. In the 1955 edition, Johnson places caesuras in almost identical places to preserve the original work’s perception of death. As a result, the 1955 edition successfully displays images of a dying narrator and the short paced poet structure. With the same style of caesura, the 1955 edition brings out the original version’s idea about death being a slow yet nonspiritual everyday occurrence.

Often poets use capitalization as a tool to emphasize specific words. Two versions of the poem “Dying” capitalize overlapping words to express equal emphasis....
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