Emily Dickinson

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Death

  • There's a certain Slant of light
    • uses the metaphore of winter light at the end of the day to explore finality of life - represents it as being oppresive
    • "opresses like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes"
    • "Heavenly Hurt"
    • "We can find no scar / But internal indifference"
  • I felt a funeral, in my Brain
    • Dickinson imagines being able to hear her own funeral in order to explore death and the afterlife
    • "Kept treading - treading - till it seemed that Sense was breaking through"
    • "A Service, like a Drum / Keep beating - beating"
    • "then a Plank in Reason broke"
    • "And hit a world"
  • After great pain
    • Explores the acceptence of death by relating it to the numbness caused by emotional pain
    • "The nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs"
    • "The Feet mechinical, go round"
    • "This is the Hour of Lead" 
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Death cont'd

  • It was not death, for I stood up
    • Explores how death might feel by describing it using unpleasnant abstract concepts
    • "Not fire - for just my feet could keep a Chancel cool"
    • "It was no frost, for on my Flesh / I felt Sirocos" 
    • "As if my life were shaven, / And fitted to a frame" 
    • "could not breath without a key"
    • "Grisly frosts - first autumn morns Repeal the Beating ground"
  • The last night that she lived
    • Dickinson explores the living's obsession with death by reflecting on the experience of sitting at someone's deathbead
    • "It was a Common Night / Except the Dying"
    • "As we went out and in / Between Her final Room/ And Rooms where those to be alive"
    • "A jealousy for Her arose"
    • "She mentioned, and forgot / Then lightly as a Reed / Bent to the water" 
    • "And We - we placed the Hair
    • Critic - "she returns constantly to the preoccupation with death" - Ankley Larabee
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Afterlife / Immortality

  • I heard a fly buzz
    • Explores and questions the importance notion of heaven by imagining that a merger fly interupting her acension to heaven
    • "Between the light and me" 
    • "when the King / Be witnessed - in the Room"
    • "what portions of me be / assignable"
    • "then the windows failed"
  • Because I could not stop for death 
    • Explores the notion of the afterlife and the finality of life by imagining taking a carriage ride with death and watching life of others pass by 
    • 'The carriage held but Ourselves / - and Immortality'
    • "And I put away my / labour and my leisure"
    • 'where children Strove  / At Recess - in the ring'
    • For only Gossamer, my gown'
    • 'We passed the setting sun'
    • ''The Dews drew quivering and chill'
    • 'were toward eternity'
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Afterlife / Immortality

  • It was not death, for I stood up
  • Explores how the afterlife would feel, describing it using unpleasnant abstract concepts
  • "Not fire - for just my feet could keep a Chancel cool"
  • "It was no frost, for on my Flesh / I felt Sirocos" 
  • "As if my life were shaven, / And fitted to a frame" 
  • "could not breath without a key"
  • "Grisly frosts - first autumn morns Repeal the Beating ground"
  • Critcs
    • "Emily Dickinson is not a path to heaven" - Wendy Martin
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Religion

  • This World is not Conclusion
    • Explores how religion has been used to explain life an questions how accurate this is
    • "Narcotics cannot still the Tooth / That nibbles at the soul"
    • "It beckons and it baffles"
    • "Plucks at a twig of evidence"
    • "Through a Riddle, at the last Sactity must go"
  • There's a certain slant of light
    • Displays religion as being oppresive by describing the dark light of a winter afternoon  
    • 'Oppreses like the Heft / of Cathedral Tunes'
    • 'Heavenly Hurt'
    • T'is the Seal Despair'
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Religion

  • I heard a fly buzz
    • Explores and questions the importance notion of heaven by imagining that a merger fly interupting her acension to heaven
    • "Between the light and me" 
    • "when the King / Be witnessed - in the Room"
    • "what portions of me be / assignable"
    • "then the windows failed"
  • 'not the path to heaven' - Wendy Martin
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Self/ Mind

  • One need not be a chamber - to be Haunted 
    • Explore the idea that we are afraid to explore our inner selves or unserstand our minds and that our bodies do not let us by personified it as a ghost within a house
    • "The Brain has Corridors"
    • "Far safer, of the Midnight Meeting / External Ghost"
    • "That Cooler Host"
    • "unarmed, one's a'self encounter - in a lonesome"
    • "Ourself behind ourself, concelaed - / Should startle most";
    • "The Body - borrows a revolvers ? He bolts the door"
  • My life had stood - A Loaded Gun
    • "And carried Me away"
    • "every time I speak for him"
    • "Tis better than the Eider-Duck's Deep Pillow"
    • "For I have but the power to kill, / without - the power to die"
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self

  • Context
    • Began to seclude herself in 1850 - aged twenty - spent a great deal of time exploring her own mind and questioning herself
  • Critics
    • Byron - "the dangers of confrontation within the mind"
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Pain

  • It was not death, for I stood up
    • Explores grief by comparing it to the afterlife, describing it using unpleasnant abstract concepts
    • "Not fire - for just my feet could keep a Chancel cool"
    • "It was no frost, for on my Flesh / I felt Sirocos" 
    • "As if my life were shaven, / And fitted to a frame" 
    • "could not breath without a key"
    • "Grisly frosts - first autumn morns Repeal the Beating ground"
  • After great pain, a formal feeling comes
    • 'Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs'
    • 'The feet mechanical, go round'
    • 'This is the Hour of Lead'
    • 'First chill, then stupor - then letting go'
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Pain

I felt a funeral, in my brain

  • Dickinson imagines how uncomfortable it would be to be concious at her own funeral
  • "Kept treading - treading - till it seemed that Sense was breaking through"
  • "A Service, like a Drum / Keep beating - beating"
  • "then a Plank in Reason broke"
  • "And hit a world"

Go to him! Happy letter!

  • Dickinson explores heartbreak by adressing her true feelings to a letter that will not reveal these feelings to the man she is in love with
  • 'Tell him the page I didn't write'
  • 'And left the verb and pronoun out'
  • 'For it would split his heart'
  • 'And you - got sleepy - and begged to be ended'
  • Critic
    • 'found a melody for mental pain and apprehension' - J. S. Porter
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Death context

  • lost many friends 1880s  - Charles Wadsworth, Judge Otis P. Lord, and Helen Hunt Jackson - 
  • lost her nephew Gib, her father and her mother.
  • Victorians had facination with death and took mourning seriously
  • Typically, one or more grieving relatives would surround the bed waiting to hear the last words, signifying the transition from this world to the next.
  • Photographs, death masks and portraits of the recently deceased were also produced, jewelry that utilized a locket of the dead person's hair.
  • Women wore a plain, black dress made of a drab, blended fabric, which covered the entire body, including a cap. Black ribbon was tied to their underwear. 
  • After two months, two flounces could be added to the skirt. 
  • After one year, the women could switch their dress fabric to silk colored in lavender, mauve or violet. 
  • They were also forbidden from socializing during this 28-month period.
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Religion Context

  • Brought up in a Calvinist household - attended religious services  family at Amherst's First Congregational Church 
  • Congregationalism predominant denomination of early New England. 
  • Amherst College itself was founded in 1821 by Congregationalists to educate more young men for Christian ministry - father was one of the founders 
  • Dickinson received her own Bible from her father at age 13.
  •  Her familiarity with the Bible and her facile references to it in letters and poems have long impressed scholars.
  • Ministers from the church were regular guests at the Dickinsons' house, and several became close friends
  • 1800-1830s - Second Great Awakening - family and friends proffessed beliefs
  •  Dickinson ultimately did not join the church
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Self/Mind and Pain context

  • Self/Mind 
    • began to seclude her self  at twenty years old in 1850s - spent most of her time inside the Homestead exploring her mind and writing poetry
  • Pain
    • Nursed mother for seven years
    • Austin married her friend Susan Gilbert nd moved the Evergreens - very close to both of them
    • Heart break - possilbe romantic feelings for  Judge Otis Phillips Lord - wrote many letters to him
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