Like many of her poems, "The Last Night that She Lived" contains poet Emily Dickinson's exploration of dying and human emotion. Rather than romanticizing death, however, Dickinson utilizes death as a simple process in human life. She achieves this by creating a tone progression in the speaker, beginning with excited hope in disappointed realization, through the use of exchange active and passive figurative language and structure patterns.
Dickinson basically marks the shift of the speaker's tone with the lack of action. Then, she creates an attitude of excitement and building hopes by indicating the speaker's complicated sense of detail and the "italicized great light" which begin in the near future. Further, the speaker's emotions toward the upcoming event (a death) are very active, involving a jealousy and continued walks in and out of the dying person's "final room". Here, Dickinson gives the reader an image of onlookers particularly facing back and forth through the room waiting for some action to occur. As the tone changes into one of disappointment and realization, the speaker reflects more pedestrian emotions such as being "too jostled to speak". Eventually, the disappointment is naturally connected to the lack of strength surrounding the actual death, with smallest action such as "lightly bending" and "consenting". At the end, the speaker indicates a realization of needing to regulate the abstract understanding of dying, but still, in line with the tone, does not actually do this and instead stays inactive. Dickinson creates a tone shift in the poem largely through the progression of images, which reveal action to those, which reveal the opposite.
She also achieves the tone shift by including different basic patterns and themes. Ironically, in the progression of tone and action, Dickinson maintains the same syllable and rhythm pattern from line to line. This decision sets the stage for the conclusion of the play, in which the speaker...
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