Treatment of Death in Dicken's Poetry

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Mahmudul Hassan Tareq
Pankaj Bhattacharjee

Lecturer

Writing Literary Essay and Composition

Eng-437

091-114-022

11 Dec., 2011

Death in Emily Dickinson’s Poetry

Poetry; most of the time depends on the poet’s personal life. His/her experiences in life are reflected through the words of poetry. Emily Dickinson lived most of her life within private world. Because of this life of solitude, she was able to focus on her world more sharply than others authors of her time were. She treated death in a different way with the use of imagery and metaphor; these were taken from her observations and imagination. She used simple language and paid attention to things that nobody else noticed in the universe. She was obsessed with death and its consequences especially the idea of eternity. Life’s most fascinating features to Dickinson were contingency of death, awe, wonder and endless questions. If anyone examine Dickinson’s poems one can see that Dickinson’s point to death as the final inevitable change. One thing is evident in her poetry that she was curious to learn about the intensity of dying person and their experience at the point of mortality. The most important feature is that throughout her poetry Emily Dickinson searched for the knowledge of what lies beyond life and in the mysteries of death and immortality.

Nearly 150 of Emily Dickinson’s poems begin with “I,” the speaker is probably fictional, and the poem should not automatically be read as autobiography. She insisted on the distinction between her poetry and her life. But it is the reflection of her state of life, how she treated life with death. Life is a journey to death and death is the road to afterlife. It can be said that the journey towards eternity. In the poem “Because I Could not stop for Death”, Emily Dickinson wrote:

Because I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me:

The carriage held but just ourselves

And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste, (1-5)

Here death is personified and regarded as a gentle man. The main theme is the interpretation of mortal experience from the stand point of immortality. In the first two lines death is personified as a carriage driver as well as a gentle man. The word “Ourselves” shows us that death was accompanied by the poet in the carriage and they were not in a hurry, thus it was being driven slowly and progressing towards eternity. The word drive symbolizes Dickinson’s leaving life. She progresses from childhood, maturity (the “gazing grain” is ripe) and the setting (dying) sun to her grave. In her words: “We passed the fields of gazing grain, / We passed the setting sun.(11-12) The word “passed” is repeated four times in stanzas three and four. They are “passing” out of time to eternity. The sun passes them as the sun does everyone who is buried. With the sun setting, it becomes dark. In the final stanza, the speaker has moved into death. She only guesses (“surmised”) that they they are heading for eternity.

"I heard a fly buzz when I died" is one of Emily Dickinson's finest opening lines. It effectively juxtaposes the trivial and the momentous; the movement from one to the other is so swift and so understated and the meaning so significant. The death in this poem is painless, yet the vision of death it presents is horrifying. The appearance of an ordinary, insignificant fly at the climax of a life at first merely startles and disconnects us. But by the end of the poem, the fly has acquired dreadful meaning. Clearly the central image is the fly. It makes a literal appearance in three of the four stanzas and is what the speaker experiences in dying. Dickinson with her words:

The eyes beside had rung them dry,

And breaths were gathering sure

For the last onset, when the king

Be witnessed in his power. (5-7)

The people witnessing the...
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