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Explication and Analysis of Poems by Emily Dickinson

Jul 5, 2019 at Literature Essays

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In this exercise, I have selected two poems written by Emily Dickinson. The first poem is titled "I Like a Look of Agony" while the second is "Because I Could Not Stop for Death." An analysis of these two poems has been done in order to expound on the different aspects of the poem. These two poems navigate around the same environment of death hence forming the basis for selection. One poem has experiences that are directly opposite the other. Each of these poems is thus analyzed below:

"I Like a Look of Agony"

Emily Dickinson alludes to the practical experiences and presentation of grief. In cases of sadness, it becomes a problem to pretend about their occurrences. This is pegged on the fact that the emotional center of the brain is involved and thus rendering it impossible to fake the facial expressions. Despite the fact that individuals may tend to mask their feelings, it tends to be usually difficult to get away with it.


In the first stanza, the poet describes the appearance of individuals in situations of grief. The speaker in the poem enjoys the outward show of the individuals who are undergoing emotional disturbance. Such grief can be present with such intensity that one goes into convulsions. This experience is thus difficult to sham since it is difficult to mimic interludes of agony.

The second stanza rolls down to discuss the real experience of death as well as its related agony. During the dying process, individuals always experience such pain and suffering until the final point that death ensues. The fact that feigning agony is not practicable underscores the weight that is attached to this agony. Dickinson emphasizes on the importance of the expression of the grief and the need for people to appreciate others.

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Dickinson applies paradox in expressing her opinion and feeling about death. Inasmuch people find grief and mourning to be a sad and somber process, the speaker expresses her like for the situation. Literally, this refers to sadism. However, the author's real meaning could be interpreted to be the like for the fact that grief cannot be faked. It must come out and does not care about the social status of an individual in the society. She further states that tears alone are not enough in order to qualify one to be in deep pain. Convulsions, throes as well as beads upon the forehead should accompany agony. Such an understanding thus helps in trusting the individual in pain hence making her easily intervene in meeting their needs. The poet applies alliteration in the first line of the poem where then words 'like' and 'look' all begin with the same consonant sound. The poem has an irregular rhyme scheme since there is no particular pattern of sounds applied at the end of the lines of the poem.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death

In this poem, the speaker describes her untimely date with death. The persona is a woman who encounters death at a time that she was not adequately prepared. In this case, death comes in the form of a man suitor who takes the speaker on a ride in his carriage drawn by the horse. She describes the journey to be so relaxed and peaceful as they pass through the town to the fields where they meet the children playing and everything seems to be all right at first. As twilight appears, the speaker realizes that she is very under-dressed that leads to feeling of coldness and chilliness. She explains that death had come at an unexpected time before she could completely clothe herself. What a sudden death! This journey ends with the final destination at a small headstone that would finally be her burial place.

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In the final stanza, the speaker expounds on the actual time of her death. She describes it to have occurred some centuries ago. In spite of the fact that the death occurred long time ago, the speaker recalls it as if it took place recently. She talks about the grave to be a transition place to her destiny where she would exist in for eternity.

Navigation through the poem reveals vast use of imagery with the speaker travelling to the grave accompanied with death. Repetition has been used in order to create emphasis on the fact the speaker travelled with death. The phrase "We passed..." has been repeated three times in the third stanza to emphasize on the progress of the journey. Alliteration has also been used in the poem to create musicality and flow. The following lines evidence this:

"Recess... Ring"

"Setting... Sun"

"Grazing... Grain"

"Gossamer... Gown"

"Tippet... Tulle"

"Horses'... Heads"

Personification has been used to address the subject matter in this poem. Death has been regarded as a man with the poet constantly human characters to refer to death. The whole poem is in itself personified since the speaker describes the events that occurred during her encounter with death. This is however not practical in real life situation. The phrase "The Dews grew quivering and chill" also personifies dew. The speaker also metaphorically refers to death as a house. It depicts the comfort the he would enjoy in this new place of rest.


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Diction has also been used to communicate the theme of the poem with clarity. Dickinson uses this to show the acceptance of death by the speaker. This depicts that death is a friend of the speaker and the grave is an enjoyable place that can be compared to a house. Capitalization of key words has also been done to lay emphasis on the importance of such words. It intends to draw the reader's attention.

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