Poetry Case Study Case Study

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Emily Dickinson

The poems of Emily Dickinson have been interpreted in many ways and often it is hard to separate the narrator of her works with the woman who wrote them. Dickinson lived such a small and sad little life that it is easy to see these feelings of loneliness and despair in the words she writes. She never married and spent her days isolated from her primarily Christian community for her family's beliefs in a less rigid and more spiritual idea of what God is and how they could communicate with Him. People have speculated about Dickinson's mental state. She became known for wearing only white and for living a reclusive existence until she finally died. Her poems came not from a desire to sell, but from her individual need to express herself. Emily Dickinson never intended to publish her poems. Rather the poems we have were found among her possessions, her inner thoughts were written in imagery which we now read and analyze as some of the most beautiful poetry in the history of the English language. Many of her poems are about God, are about life, or are about death. Death and the tragic emotions associated with it echo throughout her poetry. These emotions are particularly evident in Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death," "A Death-Blow is a life-blow to some," and "As by the dead we love to sit."

In "Because I could not stop for Death," Dickinson writes a poem in which an unnamed narrator rides in a carriage with the literal representation of Death. During their ride, they pass all the visions from when the person was alive and the individual is forced to reconcile reality with memory.
In the words used in Dickinson's poem, there is a feeling that the dead are in some ways far luckier than the living. She wrote that "The carriage held but just ourselves / And Immortality" (3-4). Human lives are short things and they go by very quickly; faster than even we realize. Death, on the other hand is represented as existing at a leisurely peace. His presence is as peaceful as a Sunday drive. Death "drove, he knew no haste" (5). People are afraid of Death, and Dickinson illustrates why this is a false fear. The tragedy of the death is nothing compared to the peace of being dead. Looking back upon childhood, then marriage, and then her demise, the narrator notes that "Since then't is centuries; but each feels shorter than the day" that she rode with Death (17-18). Life is short and death is forever. Dickinson's perspective was a unique one for the time of her writing and her success shows that it is not always a bad thing to go against the grain or to explore perspectives that are unusual. A person's aesthetic must be true to their own perspective if the writer hopes to create something with lasting emotional impact.

This feeling of gladness and serenity in death is mirrored in another of Emily Dickinson's poems: "A Death-blow is a life-blow to some." The very first line shows the thesis of this work, and indeed many of Dickinson poems. Some people flourish when death comes for them. There are those who live such small existences, or who live lives of such abject misery, that death truly is a blessing for them. Emily Dickinson writes that "till they died, did not alive….....

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