Emily Dickinson’s “the Snake”

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Josh Mclawhorn
Eng 232
Professor Etheridge
9/24/2012

Emily Dickinson’s “The Snake”

“The snake” by Emily Dickinson is a 24 line poem describing an encounter with a snake in the grass. The six stanzas of the poem flow together in an ABCB rhyme scheme yet are not formalized into any specific meter. “The Snake” says that Dickinson shares a friendly and appreciative connection with a snake because it is being of nature, just as she is a being of nature; but even while she appreciates this creature, whenever she encounters it; it still chills her to the bone. Through her use of style such as personification, descriptive imagery, metaphors, and similes Dickinson causes the reader to gain an appreciation of the snake; but then uses the same style (metaphors and imagery) to remind her readers that the snake is still no matter what, chilling and terrifying. The snake is an individual of nature, and must be appreciated, yet Dickinson can never truly trust or love the snake because of the feelings of terror it provokes. The first stanza introduces the reader to the poem by describing a snake coming through the grass; it also reminds the reader that when first coming upon a snake the notice is sudden, and surprising. The first two lines introduce the snake and how it slithers through the grass “A narrow fellow in the grass / Occasionally rides”. Line one describes the snake as a “narrow fellow” describing its width as small and skinny (narrow), and also personifying it as a man or a boy by calling it fellow. Line two again personifies the snake by using the metaphor “rides” to describe its movement. “Rides” in Dickinson’s day was most often associated with how a human rides a horse. Saying the snake “rides” gives it a human attribute. Line three and four of stanza one are “You may have met him, - did you not, / His notice sudden is.” Line three familiarizes the idea of the poem with the readers by reminding them of a time when they came upon a snake. Line four describes noticing a snake as “sudden.” This tells the reader that when coming upon a snake the experience can happen very suddenly and be scary or shocking. The second stanza describes the immediate encounter with a snake. Stanza two uses style like metaphors to describe what seeing the snake is like during the very first seconds; then goes on to describe what it is like when the snake moves on, passing the speaker by. The first two lines of stanza two are “The grass divides as with a comb, / A spotted shaft if seen;” In the first line Dickinson uses a simile to describe the snakes first appearance (“as with a comb”) causes the reader to imagine the snake parting the grass as a comb does hair. Line two describes the snake as being “spotted”. This gives the reader a visual image of the snake’s characteristics and what it actually looks like. Line three and four are “And then closes at your feet, /and opens further on” both of these lines describe the movement of a snake slithering towards the speaker, and the moving past. The reader can imagine the meadow grasses “opening and closing” from the snake’s body as it wriggles away. The Third Stanza tells the reader about the snake’s personal preferences, what conditions it prefers; also in stanza three the poem’s speaker begins telling about their childhood, and describes being barefoot while encountering snakes. In line one and two of the third stanza Dickinson writes “He likes a Boggy Acre / A Floor too cool for Corn”. Line one calls the snake a he, (calling the snake a he personifies it) and then proceeds to tell the reader that he likes a “boggy” acre. A boggy acre is land that is wet and mossy, or swampy. Line two (“A floor too cool for corn” means that the snake prefers a place where corn does not grow. Corn grows in places where it’s hot and dry, so the snake would prefer someplace cool and wet. In line three and four of the third stanza, Dickinson writes “Yet when a child, and barefoot, / I more than once,...
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