Even though humans are assumed to be social creatures that seek out the comforts of belonging, texts frequently engage with individual experiences of disconnection, whether it be in the face of death’s isolating force or as a consequence of inner impulses. The desire to belong is an inherent part of human nature but it’s the disconnection or alienating experiences that most define a person’s identity?
While Dickinson maintains her faith in the power of communication to bind individuals in “I Died for Beauty”, her speaker also asserts humanity’s ultimate isolation in death. The poem’s literary conceit is established in Dickinson’s use of rhyme in the lines, “in the tomb” and “in the adjoining room”, which draws the reader’s attention to the blackly comic idea of two people trying to get comfortable in their tombs. Further, the alliteration used in “adjusted” and “adjoining” helps the reader to recognise the odd and humorous use of these words in relation to a dead person in a tomb. In these ways, humour allows the reader to engage with, and ultimately ‘belong to’, the notions described in the text. Despite the dark humour, the diction of “brethren” and “kinsmen” emphasise the desire that these two people have to connect with each other. The accumulation of verbs “questioned,” “replied” and “talked” describes their verbal communication and their intellectual connection. This is reinforced through the inter-textual allusion to Keats’ poem, which suggests a meeting of minds and sharing of metaphysical insight that facilitates a degree of belonging. However, the reality of death is clear in the last lines where the gruesome imagery of the moss that “covered up our names” symbolises the disconnection and alienation from the world that comes with death. Dickinson goes beyond Keats’ idea that the appreciation of beauty is the most important truth in life and indicates that even if a person dies a noble death, and connects with others on a metaphysical level, after...
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