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Insights On Death In I’ve Seen A Dying Eye

1431 words - 6 pages

"I’ve Seen a Dying Eye," by Emily Dickinson, is a poem about the nature of death. A sense of uncertainty and uncontrollability about death seems to exist. The observer’s speech seems hesitant and unsure of what he or she is seeing, partly because of the dashes, but also because of the words used to describe the scene. As the eye is observed looking for something, then becoming cloudy and progressing through more obscurity until it finally comes to rest, the person observing the death cannot provide any definite proof that what the dying person saw was hopeful or disturbing. The dying person seems to have no control over the clouds covering his or her eye, which is frantically searching for something that it can only hope to find before the clouds totally consume it. Death, as an uncontrollable force, seems to sweep over the dying. More importantly, as the poem is from the point of view of the observer, whether the dying person saw anything or not is not as significant as what the observer, and the reader, carry away from the poem. The suspicion of whether the dying person saw anything or had any control over his or her death is what is being played on in the poem. If the dying person has no control, what kind of power does that give death? Did the eye find what it was looking for before the clouds billowed across their vision, and was it hopeful? These questions represent the main idea the poem is trying to convey. Death forces itself upon the dying leaving them no control, and if something hopeful exists to be seen after death, it is a question left for the living to ponder.

The idea that something exists after death is uncertain in this poem, saying this, it is important that the point of view is that of the observer. The observer sees in the first few lines, "I’ve seen a Dying Eye/Run round and round a Room--/In search of Something--as it seemed--." From the start, we assume the eye is searching for evidence of an afterlife, but only the dying person knows for what the eye is searching. The reader gets a sense that the observer, who represents the living, knows what the dying eye is looking for, but because the observer is alive, the answer is hidden from his or her eyes. By using the word "seemed," Dickinson, along with her ever-present dashes, injects an element of doubt in the speaker’s voice as to whether something does exist.

As in other Dickinson poems about death, there is a journey, however small, that the dying person embarks upon. Although it is not a life-long journey, as it was in "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," the dying person did travel through the obscurity of the clouds searching for something. The eye’s journey through the clouds and the expanding obscurity represents the search for an existence after death. As the eye ran around the room the observer sees the eye’s journey, "Then Cloudier become--/And then--obscure with Fog--." The observer, through his or her’s hesitant speech, has already proved that there...

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