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Emily Dickinson: I Heard A Flyy Buzz When I Died

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Emily Dickinson's poem "I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died" poses a question to the reader "what is the significance of the buzzing fly in relation to the dying person?" In a mood of outward quiet and inner calm, the dying person peacefully proceeds to bestow her possessions to others, and while willing her possessions, she finds her attention withdrawn by a fly's buzzing. The fly is introduced in close connection with "my keepsakes" and "what portion of me be assignable." The dying person has an obsession with cherished material things no longer of use to the departing owner. In the face of death, and even more of a possible spiritual life beyond death, one's concern with a few belongings is but trivial, and indeed a distraction from the issue of death itself. The physical aspects of ones existence are prominent, and this is expressively illustrated by the intervening fly. Even so small a self-evident creature is sufficient to separate the dying person from "the light," so that spiritual awareness is lost.

The theme of this poem is death and jealousy. The death of the speaker, and the action of willing her possessions away to others on her deathbed, is intruded on by the fly that is alive. Unlike the speaker, the fly is able to live in a world which is not coming to an end. The fly is not only an intrusion on the "peaceful" death of the speaker, it is something to envy for her. The imagery is very clear in this poem. Emily Dickinson's elaborate picture of someone on their death bed is completely intricate and expressive. The willing away of worldly possessions and the finality of death is seen by the images created by Dickinson. "I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died" is a poem that uses imagery to capture the torment of a person who is on their deathbed.

Today, and most definitely in the time of Emily Dickinson, there are major differences between the lives of men and women. The man is seen as the subject, or the head of the relationship, and the woman is usually viewed as the object of the relationship. In the poem "My Life had stood -- a Loaded Gun -- ." the subject is the owner, and the object is the gun, or the speaker, similar to a husband and wife relationship. However, during the process of the poem the object increasingly takes on subject status. In the second verse the gun speaks "for" the master, this denotes that she perceives her function as an extension of his power, and figuratively, his voice: "And every time I speak for Him." In the third verse she no longer acts for the master but describes an exchange between herself and the mountain. The actions of the gun are most likely a metaphor for Dickinson's feelings towards the relationship between a husband and a wife, and the retaliation or the revolution of the female sex. Before many women of her time, Dickinson realized the oppression of women as objects in a relationship, and puts power into the hands of women by personifying the gun as herself.

The relationship Dickinson has with her reader can be identified by the uncertainty of the ending of this poem. "Though I than He -- may longer live / He longer must -- than I -- / For I have but the power to kill, / Without -- the power to die -- " (like "to see to see" in the prior poem) represents the difficulty and success Dickinson has in creating a poem that will keep a relationship of equality between herself and her reader. The danger of inventing a new relationship between writer and reader is suggested in the figures of the gun and the mountain. They are both images of potential violence, and their unrestrained power, if the reference to the volcano Mount Vesuvias is taken literally, would ultimately be destructive to life.

In the first two lines of "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" Death, personified as a carriage driver, stops for the speaker who could not stop for him. The word kindly is used, which characterizes death; this comes with surprise, since death is usually personified as the Grim Reaper, a character instilling fear into most people. It is possible that traveling in the carriage with the speaker, there is another passenger which is Immortality. Now, in the carriage

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