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Discuss Ways in Which Dickinson Presents Death in 465 (‘I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died’).

In: English and Literature

Submitted By econ123
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This poem demonstrates a wide array of interpretations of death as well as Dickinson’s uncertainty as to what may come after Death and her questioning of the existence of God.

Dickinson sees death in a very physical way; she chooses not to concentrate on the spiritual aspect or the anticipated arrival of “the King”. This is best shown in the opening line of “I heard a Fly buzz”, where we are immediately provoked by thoughts of decay and rot. She chooses to focus on physical aspects of the mourners such as their “eyes” and “breaths”. This is perhaps to focus on the painless death of the woman, as Calvinists believed that if someone suffered a peaceful death they would enter the Kingdom of God.

Her use of an oxymoron in “that last onset” shows how she acknowledges the religious importance of death to others, as in 19th century America Christians believed that the “last” of someone’s life on earth was the “onset” of their eternal life in heaven. Death is thought to bring revelations as with it comes an exalted male figure of “the King” to be “witnessed”, yet this expectation and sense of ritual is undercut by the juxtaposition of “in the Room” and furthermore so by “the fly” which interposes and is all that appears in place of God.

Dickinson focuses on the harsh realities of death in the fact that the dying can only “will their Keepsakes” yet their souls and character will be lost forever. This is emphasized by the manner in which the mourners conduct themselves. They seem to be putting on an act, shown by the synecdoche used to represent them as “Eyes”, perhaps to show that they are just crying through their eyes but not through any deep emotion or mourning. Once they’ve done their part and the eyes “had wrung dry” they wait for her possessions to be “signed away”.

She reveals the truth about death and its intimate affairs, perhaps to give us an image of

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