Emily Dickinson

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Lapis Lazuli -An International Literary Journal (LLILJ) Vol.2/ NO.2/Autumn 2012

Emily Dickinson’s Perspectives on Death: An Interpretation of Dickinson’s Poems on Death.

Omana Antony Suchi Dewan

A Death blow is a Life blow to Some Who till they died, did not alive become — Who had they lived, had died but when They died, Vitality begun. (816) Emily Dickinson Emily Elizabeth1 Dickinson (1830-1886) has often been pictured as a sensitive but isolated poet. During her lifetime she was little known and it is only after the publication of Thomas .H. Johnson‘s third edition of Dickinson‘s complete poems in 1952 2 that a renewed interest in her work was created in America as well as in abroad. Her work best defines the distinctive qualities of American Experience, an emanation of liberal independent soul as against the dogmatic thought of religious dependence of Calvinism3. Right from the beginning she was an introvert Lapis Lazuli -An International Literary Journal (LLILJ) ISSN 2249-4529, Vol.2/ NO.2/Autumn 2012 URL of the Issue: http://pintersociety.com/vol-2-issue-2autumn-2012/ URL of the article: http://pintersociety.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Omana-Antony-13.pdf © www.pintersociety.com 1

Emily Dickinson’s Perspectives on Death: An Interpretation of Dickinson’s Poems on Death.

making rendezvous with her own soul. Later her introversion by and by led her to mystical experience called union with the soul or the divine. Her mystical experience enabled her to redefine everything in line with her spiritual thinking; and she wrote several poems under the intoxication of her spiritual thinking. A close reading of Dickinson‘s poems indicates that the best of her poems revolve round the theme of death. Being a mystic she believes in the deathlessness of death. In fact if death is to be assigned any position in her world then it will be second only to God. Death is a free agent; it is evergreen and all powerful. All the man-made creations perish with the passage of time. All the kingdoms fall except death. This undoubtedly confirms the immortality of death and reinforces its divine nature. The gradual encroachment of death upon living beings imposed the only philosophically meaningful relationship between man and nature, the soul and the body: Death is a Dialogue between The Spirit and the Dust. (976) Dickinson devoted about five hundred of her poems to the theme ‗Death‘. This particular theme begins in her early poetry and persists in her later poetry. She does not pursue death with a single attitude; it varies in tone from elegiac despair or horror at bodily decay to exalted and confident belief. For her Death is an unsolvable mystery. As she says in one of her poems: Death leaves us homesick, who behind, Expect that it is gone Are ignorant of its concern As if it were not born. (935) When Dickinson was alive, death was always close at hand. Living in a rural setting a century and a half ago, she was aware of the cycle of existence, from birth to death and birth again. Most of the people also would have been aware of that cycle, living on farms, tending to animals, watching the seasons change. Moreover, this was a time before advances in health care when people would die from a simple infection or injury; women routinely died in childbirth, along


Lapis Lazuli -An International Literary Journal (LLILJ)

with the child; life expectancy was only about 40 or 50 years; few people would survive to old age as happens all the time now. Dickinson simply reflected in her writing what she saw in life, and the life in her lifetime which was constantly shadowed by death. From the age of fifteen, till her twenty fifth years she witnessed the funeral processions of Amherst passing by to the adjacent cemetery, the ―forest of the Death‖, with its trees of white tombstones. The death of her friend Sofia Holland left her in a ‗fixed melancholy‘ when she was only thirteen and the graphic description she gave of the sad event...
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