6 November 2012
Essay Two – I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
1. Part One
Solitary: Deprived of the company of others; the state of being alone; a reference to solitary confinement (solitary).
The use of the word solitary in line 16 illustrates how although people have been described as taking part in the funeral, they do not relate or understand her. Although there are others around her, there is no communication between them. She is described as wrecked in the same line that “solitary” is used, showing the reader that her state of isolation is due to her being damaged – her state of being insane. Although the use of other words, such as the use of the non-inclusive words they and them, give hint to her isolation, “solitary” is the only concrete illustration of isolation. The idea of solitariness is central to the poem because it is an important aspect of the transition to insanity and of insanity itself. This is because in this transition, no one can relate or understand what one is going through. In the poem, others cannot communicate or relate to her feelings of despair towards her transition to insanity. Solitary can also be taken to be a reference to solitary confinement, which is commonly used in asylums. She is now insane and unable to communicate effectively, as can be seen in lines 13-15, so she has now been put in solitary confinement. In reality, solitary confinement often makes patients of asylums go more insane, which Dickinson does as well in the poem. Reason: The power of the mind to think and form valid judgments by a process of logic; the guiding principle of the mind in the process of thinking (reason).
The use of the word “reason,” as opposed to another word, is important because reason is distinct from words such as mind, sense, soul, etc. in that it is based partially on the idea of judgment and not just thought or intellect. This line is not saying the speaker is no longer able to think or feel, it is saying the speaker cannot judge and differentiate her thoughts and feelings. The ability to reason is an important component of the idea of sanity. Insanity is not the inability to think or feel, it the inability to differentiate between what is real and what is not. By using the word “reason,” Dickinson has made this important distinction. Funeral: The ceremonial observation of a death or ending (funeral).
Funerals are generally looked upon as being sad and as bringing grief. This overall feeling of grief, connected with a funeral, is reflected throughout the poem, as it is a mourning of the death of one’s sanity. It is very common, in many cultures, to ring bells or beat drums at the end of a funeral, to signify the end of a passage. Later in the poem, both in lines six and thirteen, the tolling of bells and the beating of drums is a focus as well and can be connected to the end of the passage from sanity to insanity. The poem is about the transition from being sane to being insane. This transition is reflected well in the word “funeral,” as opposed to another word, because in many cultures, funerals often signify more than just an end but also a beginning as well – a passage between two worlds. Funerals are common occurrences, so by using this word, Dickinson transforms an event that is hard to relate to, into an easily relatable issue. Brain: Organ contained in skull that acts as the primary sender and receiver of nerve transmission and is considered the center of mental activity; Intellectual power, sense, thought, imagination, intellect (brain).
The term “brain;” as compared to the terms “mind,” “soul,” and “sense;” is much more scientific and clear-cut in its meaning. We think of the brain as an organ, one that is attached to thought and logic. This is not a funeral for her brain but a funeral that takes place within her brain, where thought and logic occur. This is the death of her thoughts and the process they play a role in. The brain is also...