Emily Dickinson's

There's been a Death, in the Opposite House

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The Dead Thing

There's been a Death, in the Opposite House, by Emily Dickinson, is first and foremost about something in the neighbors house being dead. At first glance, one assumes that a person had died. The evidence supporting that theory would be that whatever had died in the house is speculated in the poem to have died on a mattress. Also, a doctor was called to try to save the dying thing. In the mid-1800s, when Dickinson wrote this poem, it was not commonplace to call for a doctor to treat anything besides people. In addition to this, a milliner is called in order to, "Take the measure of the House". A milliner is someone who makes or sells women's hats; therefore, the person who died was likely female, because someone came to sell her hats. The event that stands out most in the poem is when somebody throws a mattress out the window. It is likely that that person is the dead women's husband, who throws the mattress out in a bout of rage. The rest of the poem describes people quietly mourning for the dead women.

The Dark Parade

Some of these people may not truly be mourning, however. The milliner, the, "Man-of the Appalling trade", (Which is likely a person who transports dead bodies) and the minister are described as a, "Dark Parade". Although dark may be referring to their closeness to death, it is more likely that dark refers to their motivations and intentions. These people came to make a profit from the women's death, not mourn for the loss. It is even possible that one of them planned her death. According to the poem, the dark parade is, As easy as a Sign". This is a sign deaths to come, so the same parade will march to another house. The line referring to the intuition of the news implies that the death was scandalous enough to make the news. Murder fits both requirements; it's planned death, and is definitely unusual enough to make the news. Either way, those people clearly make a dark parade.

The Narrator

There is minimal information given on the speaker of the poem. The biggest hint to an identity is that they clearly don't know their neighbor very well, due to their lack of knowledge of who lives in the neighboring house. The death id simply referred to as a death throughout the poem. However, the narrator does recognize the milliner and the body mover as they enter the house. This may be because the narrator is in fact one of the people involved in the supposed murder. Another, less likely possibility is that the poem is written from a third person omniscient perspective, since it can read the thoughts of the children. This is refuted, though, by the fact that it apparently used to be a boy, and that it lives opposite of the house with a death. These assumptions are pulled directly from the poem and it's title.
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About the Author

Emily Dickinson lived from 1830-1886 in Amherst, Massachusetts. She lived the majority of her life isolated from the world, but the people she met strongly impacted her. She was dissuaded from reading Walt Whitman's poetry, but the two both made highly unorthodox poems. Her poems were not published during her lifetime, but rather were found after her death, all 1,800 volumes. Her poetry has unconventional grammar because the poems originally included hand written dashes of various sizes and directions. Their meaning is largely unknown, but are likely meant to emphasize different parts of the poem.
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