Emily Dickinson is one of the best known American poets. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, she lived a mostly introverted and reclusive life. Thought of as an eccentric by the locals, she became known for her penchant for white clothing and her reluctance to greet guests or, later in life, even leave her room. She spent a majority of her time writing, and in total she wrote 1,775 poems. Her poems explore countless themes, and one of her most common themes is death. One of her most well-known poems exploring death is “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died”. It offers a glimpse into the actual process of dying and what the person who is dying experiences up to the moment of their death.
The poem opens with a fly interrupting “The Stillness in the Room,” which, however, is not a permanent peace, since it is “like the Stillness in the Air --/Between the Heaves of Storm –.” In the next stanza, we see that although the room is so quiet that the speaker can hear a fly buzz, there are in fact many people there, waiting for her death. They have all finished crying (“The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –“) and are preparing for her final moments (“And Breaths were gathering firm/For that last Onset”), when it is presumed she will see God, who will lead her to the afterlife (“when the King/Be witnessed – in the Room –“).
The speaker, as per the Victorian tradition of death bed scenes, then wills away all of her material possessions (“I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away/What portion of me be/Assignable”). A fly then interrupts the scene, and its “uncertain stumbling buzz” distracts the speaker. It gets between her and “the light” of death, or more probably, what the speaker hopes will follow death. The speaker then loses consciousness—“And then the Windows failed – and then/I could not see to see –,” which ends the poem, as we can imagine, with her death.
Like many of her poems, “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –“has a speaker who communicates to...