Emily Dickinson

Lescault, O'Toole, Shao, Skarbek, Sbardella

Biography and Poetic Style

Ethan Lescault

Ms. Bailey

CPA English II F period

29 March 2016

The Timeless Dickinson

Born on the tenth of December in 1830, Emily Dickinson was raised in Amherst, Massachusetts. She developed a great appreciation for poetry early in her life, which would lead her to sneak atheistic poetry under the nose of her Puritan father, Edward Dickinson (Cornelius, Kay). At the time, Puritanism was losing its grip on the people’s minds, which opened up new opportunities for women like Emily Dickinson. She was educated at West District Middle School, and later entered Amherst Academy in 1840 (Cornelius, Kay). While there, she studied Latin, Botany, History, Geology, and other subjects. She also compiled her own herbarium (book filled with pressed plants). On September 30, 1847, Dickinson entered into South Hadley Seminary, where she was believed to be hopeless to convert to Christianity (she was spiritual, but not conventionally religious) (Cornelius, Kay).

After she left the seminary, Dickinson wrote nearly two thousand poems; most of which were kept private from anyone besides her closest family and friends. Before her death in 1886, Dickinson asked her younger sister, Lavinia, to burn all the poems she had written. However, Lavinia did not burn the poems, which were eventually published and read by students all across America (Cornelius, Kay). Dickinson’s poetry remains absolutely timeless thanks to their highly metaphorical natures, as well was their universal themes about life, death, spirituality, love, and hope (Barnsley, Sarah). In her poetry, Dickinson often examined her inner life, which in turn offers a perspective of her person. Unfortunately, because she often wrote in riddles and metaphors, Dickinson’s poems do not provide a concrete image of Emily Dickinson. For instance, in some poems, she seems fond of nature, whereas in others, she seems indifferent about nature. Despite the difficulties in understanding Emily Dickinson, her poetry remains relevant to students and poets all over the world.

The Meanings behind Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death"

Emily Dickinson is famous for her creative use of many different writing styles. Whether it be the use of rhymes in each meter or her even iambic lines. In this poem including many of her other pieces, the poem, “explores the process of dying and the nature of death” (Crumbley 1). The character in this poem is a voice that arises from beneath the ground and past the grave. Throughout the story, the narrator goes against the societal assumption that after death, the soul goes somewhere unknown, and that “death is a transition to a new life beyond the grave” (Crumbley 1). Dickinson bases these assumptions based off of similar experiences compared to the stages of death. But in the end it ultimately leads to nothing. Dickinson uses the imagery of death as a connection the our unity with Christ.

Each stanza of the poem is an example of the stages of life leading up to death. In Dickinson’s piece, “death is an entity, as distinguished from the moment of death itself” (Bloom 1). As she goes through each stage in the poem, from when she is in the “carriage” to the point where she is shown her own grave, it represents how we go through the phases and journeys throughout our lifetime and in the end, in our after life, it's no different. We don't go anywhere based on Dickinson’s piece.

1.16 I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died

I heard a buzz fly when I die

“I heard a fly buzz when I died” is a poem about death, memory, religion and sense, and

it’s also one of Emily Dickinson’s most famous works, written during either 1861 or 1862 (Priddy 3). In this poem, Dickinson describes a dying person’s feelings on deathbed, using the first person. The stillness in the air that she breathed, the gathering crowd that she saw, and the buzzing fly that she heard, are three main objects Dickinson depicts. The poem consists of four quatrains, and the meter is iambic. Along with the oddities of expression, it’s remarkable to mention that the only punctuation used throughout this poem is the dash, which leads a sense of speed, urgency, and something more to come (Priddy 6).

The theme in “I heard a fly when I died” addresses the boundary between life and death. In the beginning, Dickinson describes that the room had become still, like a sudden lull in the “Heaves of Storm,” so here presents a metaphor that suggests a brief respite between difficult life and harsh death that is like a storm (Huff 1). This runs contrary to the common idea of afterlife as a peaceful place, a rest and a reward. Continuously, she emphasizes the opinion that life after death is suffering. The phrase “Last Onset” in the second quatrain repeats it again, since it signifies the beginning of a battle.

The “main character”, the fly, shows up in the third quatrain. It is a troublesome image, and it stands for a last worldly distraction and a reminder of deathly decay. It is the fly’s presence and the buzzing sound suggest that there is no “king” and that the only future for the dying is decomposition. Dickinson’s final comment, “I could not see to see” indicates that there is no after life, a rather hopeless final realization that she will never live again (Huff 1). The entire poem argues for an afterlife.

Success is Counted Sweetest

The poem Success is Counted Sweetest was written during the Civil war by Emily Dickinson. The tone set by Emily in this poem is a very sad one and you can really see this in line (9) where she states “ as he defeated--dying--” as you can tell this line focuses on the sadness of death. This poem also uses a lot of metaphors one being the title of the poem itself by comparing success to something sweet. The meter of this poem is 4 and it has three stanzas, as well as no rhyme scheme. This poem was very influential at the time and gave a lot of people a new perspective on the war that was being fought on their own soil against their own people.

The poem starts off with sympathetic statement about human nature. As my article says “ it is metaphysical in its claim that an amorphous abstract concept (success) can not only be counted but also tasted” (Huff). To me this means that success is something way more than the physical reward you get but more of a feeling you get. Using purple to describe the host would lead to thoughts of royalty and kings or their success in having formed a new kingdom in the consequence if battle. Also because of the use of “The purple host” and not a single man or group of men took the flag described in lines (5-6) that is how you can tell that the victors easily achieved their victory or success over their foe (Huff).

The rejection of the different

The poem”Much Madness is Divine Sense” is a short poem but don't let the size of this poem take away from the powerful message it holds. I believe that if this poem was a long multiple stanza poem that it would make the message more hard to pull than it already is. In the line “ to a discerning Eye" she is using what is called syntactic doubling (Leiter1). Syntactic doubling is when a certain line refers to both the lines before and after it. Dickinson doesn't use any specific rhyme scheme or rhythmic patterns in this particular poem.

The poem “Much Madness is Divine Sense” has a very deep and complex message that takes a few reads before one can fully dissect and interpret what Dickinson is trying to convey. She is trying to say that many of us look at a person who is crazy and just in our head label them mental but for all we know the person who looks “mad” could actually be the extremely smart and also that we just don't fully understand mentally insane their so called madness could actually just be them connecting with God in away that most haven't had happen them. For example Steve jobs was crazy and if One didn't know who he was they would think he was crazy but really he had a bigger impact on the world than most people. “Rather than a definition of madness, the poem is a reaction to the ways in which society treats nonconformity” (Leiter1) Leiter sumes up a lot of what Dickinson is trying to get across in her poem. Some people aren't mad they just don't go with how the rest of society lives their life and the rest of the people she the diffrent as mad.


Works Cited

Brian, Lexi, Ethan, Jolene, James

Ms. Bailey

CPA English II F period

1 April 2016

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