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Emily Dickinson and Death as a Theme in her Poetry Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 8th, 2021

Emily Dickinson’s poetry contains sensibility with its awareness of mortality and the attendant anxiety. Using the phrases, narratives, and images of death, she forged ambiguity of experience from moment to moment (Roberts and Jacobs 1110). By scrutinizing her emotions in all their contrariness, Using unique themes in Because I could not stop for Death, I heard a fly buzz- when I died, and I died for beauty, Emily Dickinson expresses her inner strength in a peculiar way which has a deep impact on reader’s perception. Dickenson portrays that a soul is not alone in the beyond, and when it crosses this line, it can witness the power of reality. Using the theme of death, the author says that she has to cut her connections with the world and anticipates death. Thesis The theme of death dominates in the poems selected for analysis and unveils true feelings and life perception of Emily Dickenson.

Three poems describe inner state of a person through themes of grief and sadness. A self and human soul is shown to be a perpetual observance of rites in which nothing much happens, but everything has meaning and value (Budick, p. 62). It is possible to say that Because I could not stop for Death depicts the beginning stage of the developing mind, I heard a fly buzz can be seen as a continuation of this process, and I died for beauty – but was scarce is a result of this thinking (death). Overwhelmed by fear and panic, she repeatedly falls into a psychic abyss, but she learns from these encounters with the depths of herself to discern a pattern of relationships in what threatens to be unbounded despair. For instance, “The eyes beside had wrung them dry,/ And breaths were gathering sure / For that last onset, when the king / Be witnessed in his power”. Her initial forays enable her to map points of consciousness, specific emotions, or states of mind, and after years of experience and careful observation, she recognizes interconnections (Brantley, p. 43).

Because I could not stop for Death, a lyrical and flowing poem, expresses Emily Dickinson’s intense sorrow and deepening awareness of her mortality. There is no attempt to diminish the intensity of the pain with false promises of reunion in an afterlife. Again, her sorrow is acute: “Because I could not stop for Death, ‘ / He kindly stopped for me; / The carriage held but just ourselves/ And Immortality” (Dickinson). Thus, Emily Dickinson gives readers freedom of choice to interpret the poems and diversity of their meanings. Stillness supports the theme of death and internal existence that is always connected with quietness. The poems depict that our life is temporary, in contrast to eternal soul and its eternal existence (Brantley, p. 23). The word “blue“ in I heard a fly buzz emphasizes mystery and the significance of the very moment of death, “between the lights and me”. The next line shows that strength of the hero is failing and she insensibly is going away, and like “the window failed” consciousness sank from her (Martin, p. 32). The use of a rhetorical question “what portion of me be assignable” shows uncertainty and fear of the hero before the unknown world. The last line returns readers to reality underlining, through the symbol of the fly, that death is inevitable (Brantley, p. 43). The war between God and Satan is transmuted into opposing forces of life and death. Her commitment to unfolding experience explains why her grief and despair threaten to overwhelm her at times; she had no assurance that these emotions would end (Brantley, p. 44).

I died for beauty is the most intense and emotionally saturated poem. In this poem, Dickinson’s comprehensive vision, her commitment to circumference, or the entire range as well as the outer edge of experience, permits her to accept life in its many aspects, despair and hope, tears and laughter. Dickinson creates a feeling of uncertainty and ambiguity. “Gazing grain” in Because I could not stop for Death symbolizes omnipresent power of the next world. It means that she is ready to die. In this poem, Emily Dickinson respectfully acknowledged the complex and mysterious connection of life and death. She reiterated her belief that to accept the connection between life and death is to grow as a person; to deny it is to bury a part of oneself in repression and denial (Budick, p. 28). Dickinson creates a vision in which consciousness replaces the soul, ecstasy parallels grace, human love replaces God’s sanctification, and friends form the community of saints; nature is paradise, home is heaven, language is sacramental, and experience crystallized in art creates the possibility of eternal life (Brantley, p. 43).

In sum, Dickinson’s excavations of the psyche disclose emotional patterns as complex as Puritan conversion with its requisite phases of sanctification, justification, and grace. Learning the complex interrelationships of her feelings was a lifelong task. Death is connected with tears that unveil emotional experience and sorrow, Feelings and experience have the great influence on the plot and message of the poems. The theme of death and spirituality creates strong emotional appeal to imagination and represents eternal existence.

Works Cited

  1. Brantley, R.E. Experience and Faith: The Late-Romantic Imagination of Emily Dickinson. New York: Palgrave, 2004
  2. Budick, E.M. Emily Dickinson and the Life of Language: A Study in Symbolic Poetics. Louisiana State Univ Pr, 1986.
  3. Emily Dickinson. Roberts, E.V., Jacobs, H.E. Literature: An introduction to Reading and Writing. Eight Edition. Prentice Hall, 2003, pp. 1106-1123.
  4. Martin, W. The Cambridge Companion to Emily Dickinson. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
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IvyPanda. "Emily Dickinson and Death as a Theme in her Poetry." September 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/emily-dickinson-and-death-as-a-theme-in-her-poetry/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Emily Dickinson and Death as a Theme in her Poetry." September 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/emily-dickinson-and-death-as-a-theme-in-her-poetry/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Emily Dickinson and Death as a Theme in her Poetry'. 8 September.

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