Emily Dickinson is the epitome of the modern poet. Her poetry breaks from the traditional style with dashes to separate ideas. Dickinson, also, challenged the religious belief of her time. Growing up as a Puritan in Massachusetts, Emily Dickinson knew the bible, yet as an adult, she questioned that belief. Many of her poems seem focused on death; death of the body, death of the soul, death of the mind. Why was she so intrigued with death? The poems that embody this theme are: “Success is counted sweetest” (#112), “Safe in the Alabaster Chambers” (#124), “I like a look of Agony” (#339), “I felt a funeral in my brain” (#340), “Because I could not stop for death” (#479), and “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died” (#591). These poems seem to suggest that she struggled with the concept of mortality and eternity.
To understand Dickinson’s obsession about death one must consider her background. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, Emily was the youngest in a prominent family. Her father was a widely respected lawyer and later served as a state senator. Dickinson’s mother, on the other hand, was considered a religious woman who had a distant relationship with Emily. One source suggests that Emily’s mother suffered from depression. Considering that depression can be hereditary, this could explain Emily’s behavior as an adult. After spending a brief moment at Amherst Academy, she returned home where she stayed until her death. It is suggested that she lived her life as a recluse but that theory is debatable. Dickinson had many love interest including Benjamin Newton, Samuel Bowles, Reverend Charles Wadsworth, and it is suggested that she had a love interest in Susan Gilbert Dickinson. Even though she had many men in her life, Emily and her sister Lavinia never married. Dickinson had always been shy in the matter of public appearances, even when it was in her own house, but she kept a correspondence with close friends. Later in life, especially after the death of her father, she secluded herself to her room. During this time, she wrote over one-thousand seven-hundred poems, which were organized in a packet called fascicles. Only a few of her poems were published within her lifetime, but after they were revised into more of a conventional means, she stopped seeking to be published.
Themes that seem to repeat themselves in Dickinson’s poems are religion, love, nature, and death. Though, in the one-thousand seven hundred poems that Dickinson wrote she seemed to be intrigued about death. Many of the poems seem to contradict each other by means of what happens during and after death. She seems to be struggling with the religious belief of living eternity in the afterlife with God. Each poem concerning death gives a deeper look into what Dickinson was struggling with. It is interesting that no two poems dealt with death in the same way. One poem deals with the pain and anguish of death as seen in “I like a look of Agony”.
The eyes glaze once –...