When I Died- an Explication of Emily Dickenson's "I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died"

Topics: Death, Emily Dickinson, Poetry Pages: 3 (1227 words) Published: February 23, 2011
Within the conclusions of his Poetry analysis of Emily Dickenson’s “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died,” Kerry Michael Wood asserts that, “If ever a poem invited individual interpretation, this one does. It poses questions. It gives no answers… Is the fly invoked because flies tend to feast on dead flesh, or is it merely an ironical opposition to some glorious manifestation of Divinity…I hazard no opinions of my own.” Wood is correct in his stating that the poem provides many questions without offering any definite answers to them, but unlike Wood I would like state my opinion of the speaker’s intention when he invokes the fly. In each of the four stanzas of “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died,” the speaker, by some word choice, makes light the gravity of his situation—imminent death. Included in these aforementioned word choices is the mention of a fly during his last moments on Earth. This fly was not a morbid representation of the reality that the speaker’s body could soon be the fly’s dinner, but rather another attempt to remove the seriousness of the situation—focusing more on an unimportant intruder to a private family occasion than on the fact that he was about to breathe his last breath as a living, human being.

The very first words in the poem are, “I heard a fly buzz—when I died.” Tossing those words to the reader unceremoniously, the speaker sets the tone for the remainder of the poem. Talking about his/her own death as if it is an afterthought to a memory of a fly buzzing around the room strips the claim, that he is dead, of its gravity. As it is the first thing the reader registers from the poem it is accepted as a matter of fact. There is no leading up to his death, or struggle to prepare himself for death; he simply is already dead. This knowledge frees the reader of focusing on the speaker’s death, which under any other circumstance would have been the focal point of this poem. Their attention is drawn elsewhere this time however—to the buzzing fly....
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