Analysis of Dickinson’s I heard a Fly buzz - when I died
Emily Dickinson wrote hundreds of poems during her lifetime that dealt with death. She seemed to have an almost morbid fascination with the subject. Her poem "I heard a Fly buzz - when I died" is one of the many poems she wrote about this ghastly topic. The symbols she used make this poem interesting because they can be interpreted on more than one level. The punctuation and capitalization used also give the poem an abstract quality. Like much of Dickinson's poetry, this poem is both startling and somber.
One thing that stands out about this poem is that the word fly is capitalized throughout. It makes one wonder what the fly actually represents. Flies often gather around death and dead things, and on one level, the fly can be seen as a representation of death. Death, the perpetual fly on the wall, is finally making itself noticed. Although the speaker has always known that death is going to come, when it finally arrives, its modest appearance is disappointing.
The fly can also be seen as an interruption in the narrator's process of dying. The fly can be heard buzzing above the "Stillness in the Room." The fly also comes between the speaker and the light in the last stanza of the poem, which is another disturbance in the speaker's dying process. The fly can also be seen in an ironic light. The speaker, like all of us, is expecting death to be an important, grandiose experience in our lives. Her own death, however, is interrupted by something as insignificant as a fly. The insignificant quality of the fly could represent the commonplace nature of death and the relative irrelevance of the death of one person. The fly is unimportant, and Dickinson seems to be saying that we are as well. (Dickinson 1146)
The line " - when the King Be witnessed - in the Room" conjures up almost as many interpretations as the fly. The "King" could represent several different things. It could be a synonym for God or Jesus, but at the same time it could represent death. I think that it is a representation of death, because the previous lines mention that the other people in the room who are mourning are waiting to cry until the king enters the room. That makes me think that they are saving their tears for the moment when the narrator actually dies. (Dickinson 1146)
The king can also be seen as the fly. If it is interpreted that way, it is being used in a very sarcastic way, since the word king capitalized usually brings God to mind. The undermining of religion is also a common theme in Dickinson's work, so that interpretation is actually quite plausible. If the king is representative of the fly, this could also be another example of how the fly is interrupting the speaker's death. Her friends and family are all set to start lamenting when this inconsequential insect ruins the stillness and solemnity of the moment.