Emily Dickinson

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A Narrow Fellow in the Grass
General Notes
* Initially the speaker shows a sense of delight and wonder as she observes and describes the snake’s movements and environment. There is a real sense of familiarity with the snake; each seemingly belongs to and shares the beauty of the natural world. * The word “sudden” foreshadows the fear of the unpredictable nature of the snake that is clearly stated in the last stanza. * Raises ideas about the mystery of nature and how humans inevitably are “outsiders, allowed to observe but not understand its search” (Michele Drohan). She argues the “snake symbolizes the idea that nature is capable of betrayal”. The snake is able to inhabit places from the “grass” to the “boggy acre”, places the speaker will never fully belong to or understand. * The snake’s actions, like nature, are unpredictable and thus despite the familiarity, the reminiscing and almost conversational tone for much of the poem the speaker can never truly understand or belong to the snake’s world – the paradox. * The second stanza creates a sense of something invisible or mysterious, identified only by the momentary glance of the “spotted shaft”. * In the third and fourth stanza the speaker is reminiscing, remembers childhood encounters with a snake during a morning walk. A sense of menace is introduced with the words “whip-last”. The child confuses the snake for a whip (whips are often braided with leather), only to stop to see “it wrinkled and was gone”. The snake’s gentle movement contrasts sharply with the whip image. The word wrinkle has two meanings, a slight ridge in the smoothness of the surface, to become wrinkled as in crumpling, creasing or puckering or a clever so novel trick, hint or device. Ambiguity thus pervades the poem. * Stanza five affirms the closeness of the speaker to nature and the snake through words like “transport” and cordiality. * Stanza six sees a sharp contrast in tone and idea. The...
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