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The Unexpected Meditation On Death:Emily Dickinson "I Heard A Fly Buzz"

1172 words - 5 pages

Emily Dickinson's poem, "I heard a Fly buzz", is a seemingly simple poem on the surface. The poem is written in ballad form, and contains four quatrains. Each stanza alternates between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter, and provides the basic rhythm of the poem. This regular iambic rhythm of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed, give the poem a singsong, or chanted feel. In a traditional ballad stanza the second and fourth lines usually contain an end rhyme. However, Dickinson diverts away from this form and uses slant rhymes like "died" and "air" (L.1, 3), as well as internal rhymes like "Eyes" and "dry" (L.5), to draw connections, and maintain a fluid motion throughout the poem. Dickinson also uses alliteration, consonance, assonance, and repetition to ease the poem along and stress important themes. The consistent meter throughout the poem is disrupted by Dickinson's use of hyphens, which appear not only at the end of lines, but also in the middle breaking up the monotony and forcing the reader to pause unnaturally. "I heard a Fly buzz" examines the idea of death as seen by a person contemplating his or her own mortality. Throughout the poem, Dickinson delves deeply into the mind of one who is afflicted with the idea of her own death, the anticipation thereof, and the loss of expectations associated with dying. Death is not as it seems, and the poem chronicles a person imagining his or her own death, and the harsh realities of losing control and human consciousness.The anticipation of death is prevalent throughout the first quatrain. The poem opens with "I heard a Fly buzz--when I died--"(L.1), and immediately we get an unsettling feeling. The idea of a fly buzzing brings forth images of decay or dirtiness, which is what we commonly associate with flies. Gradually, anticipation is generated through her use of repetition of "Stillness in the Room" (L.2), and "Stillness in the Air--"(L.3). By repeating these two phrases and comparing the stillness to the calm "Between the Heaves of Storm", Dickinson is able to create a tone of tension. The simile compares the speaker's surroundings to an eerie calm when waiting for the next wave of the storm to begin again. The repetition not only serves to link together the notion of death represented by stillness, but it also stresses the idea of the simile, which brings out a tense feeling of waiting. The internal rhyme, "Between the Heaves" (L.4), and the repetition of the long "e" vowel sound, draw out the last line, and unite it with the chanted rhythm of the poem. The poem takes on a slow feel that contrasts with the notion of anticipation.The second stanza is a reaffirmation of the common beliefs of death. Dickinson evokes synecdoche by describing the people surrounding the narrator as "Eyes" (L.5) and "Breaths" (L.6). This is very effective because the emphasis is never removed from the idea of waiting. The people are not given any identity or character, yet they are still important in the...

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