To analyze Dickinson’s poetry, this paper will involve the analysis of three of her works, `Safe in their Alabaster Chambers”, “I Heard a Fly Buzz-when I died”, and “The Brain-is wider than the Sky”.
1. The poems were written in the first person. Since most of her poems tackled the depressing situation of death, the speaker of the poem can in fact be a dead person. However, it seemed that ED may also be assuming an all-observing, all-seeing speaker like God. In the Brain-is wider than the sky, it even seemed that God was in fact the speaker since “the weight of God” was compared to the “brain”. As for the poem’s audiences, it may be that the literary works were directed towards the ‘living’ – people who are not safe within alabaster chambers and who have not heard the buzzing fly as they lay on their deathbeds.
2. In the “The Brain – is wider than the sky”, there is really no definite setting, it can be likened to any moment of rationalization. In “I heard a fly buzz when I died”, the setting was in a deathbed while it was perhaps in the cemetery for the poem “Safe in the alabaster chambers”. The situation was related to dying. It may be that the speaker is already dead, or nearing his death. Nonetheless, the action in the poems remains the same – surrendering to the abyss.
3. Most of the poems had their verbs in the present tense, and in the indicative mood. The style may be to emphasize that the speaker is actually experiencing whatever situation is being imparted in the poems. Such style makes the poems more contemporary and typical, and thus engaging to read and easier to relate to despite the fact that they were written centuries ago. The syntax may also indicate that the poems will be eternal since the action involved is always presented as a current situation.
4. In her poems, Dickinson uses two formal patterns alternatively- tetrameter and trimeter. In every stanza, the first and third lines always have four stresses while there are only three stresses in the second and fourth lines. The rhyme schemes come in the ABCB form.
5. Dickinson uses the slant rhyme in the second and fourth lines of the first two or three stanzas to provide a sense of association and form. In the last stanza however, she then uses a true rhyme also in the last words of the second and fourth stanzas to emphasize conclusions to the proposed action.
6. In “The Brain is deeper than the sky”, the phrases “The brain is” and “The one the other will” were repeated thrice and twice, respectively, to give both indicative and comparative effects. The repetition emphasizes the subject of the poem – “the brain” – and stresses its association with other elements – the sea, the sky, and the weight of God.
7. To extensively describe the subjects of her poems, Dickinson The poem contained metaphors and personifications to describe her chosen subjects. In one poem, she likened a fly to death perhaps to stress out the repugnance of not being able to experience the simple joys of living. It is also important to note that she always compared the poem’s settings to universally recognizable elements of nature. For example, she likened the stillness of being dead to “heaves of storm”.
8. The effectiveness of Dickinson’s poems in relaying thematic obsessions may rely on the fact that she uses a mixture of images to convey the setting of her works. In `Safe in their Alabaster Chambers”, Dickinson describes the situation of the dead through their inability to be “touched by morning”, feel the sunshine, and hear the birds and the bees. She also totally equates death to “soundlessness”, darkness, and numbness. The same image associations can also be observed in “I Heard a Fly Buzz-when I died”. However, in contrast to the first poem, the latter’s scenario of soundlessness exempted the buzzing of the fly. In “The Brain-is wider than the Sky”, visual comparisons were made with the brain and major elements of nature.
9. In most of the poems, the speaker just describes poem subjects in relation to what she sees, feels, or hears. In the process, she narrates her observations and seemingly creates an underlying story for her works. In these stories, the climactic moment is death and the resolution is one’s total submission to the darkness and numbness of losing her life.
10. Dickinson’s poems are mostly playfully dreadful as they deal with death in relation to bees, sunshine, and castles. Death was portrayed as a very awful situation of being deprived of the small things which make living simply a pleasant experience. Although not portrayed as something gruesome, the description of a death as a natural and inevitable experience adds dread to poem’s tone.
Courtney from Study Moose
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