There is a lot more to poetry than just the words themselves. “What William Shakespeare called, “the mind’s eye” also plays a role” (Borus34). What that means is that your experiences and thoughts will add to your understanding. Dickinson had an active mind and a style so unique and unusual with her writing. Something that was very unusual about her writing was that she never put a title to her poems. Just like many poets, she used a wide assortment of literary devices such as, metaphor, simile, alliteration, and symbolism.
Unlike many writers of her time, Dickinson did not use conventional rhyme, capitalization, or punctuation” (Borus36). For example, she would put dashes not just at the end of a line, but also within the lines. Dickinson’s writing deals with all different aspects of life; love and death, time and eternity, and war. She treats these themes in a matter of her own, often with humor and playfulness, but most often than not, she is writing with seriousness and sensitivity. Emily Dickinson was born on December 10th, 1830, in the town on Amherst, Massachusetts.
Amherst, 50 miles outside of Boston was becoming well known as a centre for education. “In 1830, was the time when railroads were beginning to crisscross the country, connecting places that were formerly unreachable; people thought of train travel the way we think of traveling to other planets” (Borus9). During this, the economy was based on agriculture, and most people were working as farmers. Emily, however, came from a family of scholars and lawyers. Her values and priorities were very high, due to the high expectations she was given by her grandfather Samuel Fowler Dickinson, a very religious, hard and steady worker she looked up to.
The Dickinson family might not have been too well off and wealthy, but they were very well-known. Emily spent most of her earlier years enclosed in her house; it was very unlikely to see girls playing outside. In the 1800’s, there were many deadly diseases going around such as scarlet fever and whooping cough. There were many children dying from just minor cuts and scratches that were becoming infected. Just these simple things that don’t seem life or death today were defiantly deadly back then. Being the strong minded observer that Dickinson was, she would most often write about her feels with the things that were going on around her.
Dickinson was very dedicated to her work in writing poetry, she took it very seriously; she strived in exploring to find poetry in every aspect of her day-to-day life. “The themes of life: love, spirituality, or the belief in something outside the physical world, and jealousy and despair, repeat themselves throughout her work” (Borus46). Dickinson was not always consistent in her views; her viewpoint seemed to change from poem to poem. There are always different beliefs or thoughts that people have on death; there might be fear or anxiety that people experience in thinking what afterlife might hold.
In 1863, Emily Dickinson wrote the poem “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died-,” starting off the poem with this, gives the reader a rare glimpse of dying from the viewpoint of someone who is already dead” (Borus51). No matter what one thinks about life, death is always in the future. But, according to Emily, there is a continuing of life after death. This poem is written in the past tense about someone who has already died. “Emily Dickinson uses past and present tense words together, which indicate a transition between life and death” (Borus57).
The poem is ironic and unique in the way that there is such a boring and eventless matter such as a buzzing fly at such a final moment of life, “And breaths were gathering firm”. An annoying buzzing fly in not the importance in ones last moments of death. Death is supposed to come across as a serious time in life. Dickinson first sets the scene in the third and fourth stanza, “The Stillness in the Air-/Between the Haves of Storm”. In the room, there was a silence. “The Eyes around- had wrung them dry-” (5). To who is suffering, the family is anxiously waiting for the news to come. For that last Onset-when the King/ Be witnessed-in the Room-” (7-8), “In the first part of this line, the author uses an oxymoron by stating “that last Onset”. Last means an “end,” while the definition of onset is a “beginning. “” (Borus57). Dickinson’s poems use a lot of symbols, things that represent other things. When the speaker describes “Onset- when the King Be witnessed- in the Room-,”(7-8). I feel like the king is being targeted as a symbol of God and death. This is showing connection that the narrator must have a strong belief in religion.
This poem is full of sadness, with the narrator stating, “I Willed my Keepsakes” (9). “Making a will is the last and final way of ensuring the narrator’s previously-owned possessions staying with loved ones after death” (Borus62). Most people fear death, the tone of the narrator is merely one of sad acceptance” (Borus62). At the moment of the revealing of the narrators will, “There interposed a Fly-,” This is telling us that the fly is again interrupting (12). The fly seems to come across as a noisy fly. Why is it representing as a noisy fly? Why did the fly appear at the end of someone’s life and at their last breathe?
The description of the fly changes in stanza thirteen as the narrator states, “With Blue- uncertain stumbling Buzz-,” thus explaining the fly is no ordinary house fly but a metaphorical figure representing death” (Johnson173). The blue buzz in being compared with noise, but a noise can’t be a color. I think that the narrator is interpreting in this comparison is that the sky is blue and it symbolizes the heavens. “Emily Dickinson’s poem “I heard a Fly buzz- when I died” is told by a narrator who uses past tense to describe the final moments of their life” (Johnson178).
This poem was written to give the reader the inside looks to the final moments of life, but from the perspective of someone who has already had experience of death. The fly is very symbolic; it is representing the oncoming of death. Dickinson filled this poem up with a variety of metaphors and similes, such as the king being represented as god and death. Those whom going about living life without hope, carry a huge about of stress and worry for sure. Hope surely is the light in the opening of a dark tunnel. It is true that many people all over the world are in extremely hard situations, leading to horrifying conditions.
When people are put into these situations and have to live with them, is hope the thing that things can change? When reading “Hope is a thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson, this was a thought that came in mind. The content and idea that comes out of this poem is far from being simple, the idea of hope in “extremity”, and hope being “the chilliest land-, and on the strangest sea-,” (8-10) is an interesting way in viewing the world. It is very clear that Dickinson wrote this poem to create the mind to think outside the box and get a lot more out of it than just a simple piece of verse.
The message that was obvious to me that Dickinson was trying to get across was that “whatever life throws at the individual, there is always the drove-like gleam of hope that sits within all of us that is stronger than us as a person that its voice can still be heard in the “gale” of the stormy times” (Borus42). Everyone goes through rough times in their life, and might hit a bump in the road every once in a while. But, no matter whom you are on earth, or where you come from, even if that might be from the “strangest sea”, yet you might abide, but there is no room for despair.
In “Hope is a thing with feathers”, Dickinson describes that pain and hope come to all of us, “And sore must be the storm” (6). Hope is what keeps all human nature stubborn and keeps us fighting the things that life throws at us. A bird that “perches in the soul-,” (2) is a metaphor that Dickinson is using to show us that regardless of who you are, your gender, or where you come from, your race, there is always a soul within you, and everyone has a soul that is “keeping them warm” against the challenges that the storm in life is hitting them with.
This poem is telling us that our soul “never stops-at all-,” (4). “It is something that is present within us that we take for granted and usually think little of, until that is we come across poetry like this to capture our attention” (Johnson92). This poem is very clear in telling that whatever life might bring us, and all the battles that we may face, hope will always win in the end.