Suffering in Emily Dickinson's Poems

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How does Dickenson present suffering in ‘After great pain a formal feeling comes’ and ‘I felt a funeral in my brain’ and ‘There’s a certain slant of light’-

Throughout Dickinson’s poem ‘After great pain a formal feeling comes’ she attempts to communicate to the reader the nature of the suffering she is encountering that comes ‘after great pain’. This first line is the only abstract statement throughout the poem, to express that this is obviously not a physical pain. She refers to the physical nerves in her body ‘sit ceremonious like tombs’ a comparison that symbolises the effects of this suffering, a tomb being associated with qualities related to the dead. These qualities are stillness and formality, which reflect the physical numbness she is experiencing as a consequence. This sense of numbness is confirmed throughout the poem when mechanical feet are described abstractly walking in a ‘wooden way’ to reflect that they now have no regard for where they land, while indicating that this path they take is conceptual as it is physical. This comparison between the physical and mental components of suffering is intertwined within Dickinson’s poem ‘I felt a funeral in my brain’ when her dramatization of mental anguish, leads to a metaphorical drop. This results in the narrator’s physical form ‘finished knowing’ and sinking into a protective numbness. This concept is also explored within ‘Theres a certain slant of slight’ which Dickenson used as a metaphor for tuberculosis, in a time in her life when many of the people surrounding her fell victim to the disease, meaning without todays knowledge of germ theory, it would result in death. Dickenson throughout the poem moves from descriptions of ‘cathedral tunes’ to ‘internal difference’ to form a contrast between the external and internal elements surrounding life. This is also to reflect the nature of the illness tuberculosis, in which there were no physical signs of pain but instead metaphorical scarring that changed...
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