Life and Death Through the Eyes Reaction Paper

Pages: 5 (1692 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

Life and Death Through the Eyes of Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson had a strange curiosity with life and death. Recognizing she had a preoccupation with death is only seeing part of the poet. Dickinson had an obsession with death but she also took that obsession to another level by anticipating strange aspects of death and dying. Her poetry spans a wide perspective when it comes to death but that is not all she wrote about in her lifetime. However, it is safe to assume that her thoughts and preoccupation with death forced to look at many things, such as the light of spring, with different perspective. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death," "I Heard a Fly Buzz in my Head," "I Like the Look of Agony," and "A Light Exists in Spring" represent the poet's capacity for diverse points-of-view and they allow readers to look at death with another viewpoint. Disturbing and intriguing, Emily Dickinson was a poet for all poets in that she feared nothing, not even the thought of death. Emily Dickinson held a peculiar perspective about death and it often reveals itself through her poetry. What her body of work reveals is a compilation of poetry that dives into death while holding life's hand, hoping to unite the two in a moment of discovery.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Reaction Paper on Life and Death Through the Eyes of Assignment

Perhaps Dickinson's most popular poem regarding death is "Because I Could Not Stop for Death." The title suggests the poet is too consumed with living to be bothered by death. It is interesting because the poet is completely aware that she "could" not stop for death and "would" not stop for death. In short, it death would literally have to make her stop. This is exactly what happens but it does so in a peculiar way, taking readers on an adventure like no other. The poet portrays death as a well-mannered character, speaking in a composed and innocuous way. The fact that she did not notice death was secondary, as death noticed her. The poet is admits death cannot be avoided but she also suggests death is patient and kind. She writes, "He kindly stopped for me" (Dickinson Because I Could Not Stop for Death 2). Their interaction helps readers understand how the poet perceives death. She puts away her labor and leisure for "his civility" and has no trouble doing so. She never expresses fear nor does she try to run from death. This unusual view of death is fascinating because it allows readers to see the scope of Dickinson's imagination. Imagery and tone are techniques Dickinson uses to help readers see this different side of death. During her carriage ride with death, she passes "fields of grazing grain" (12), symbolizing a life fully lived. The sun symbolizes the end of life and the roof that is "scarcely visible, / The cornice but a mound" (16) is the final marker of that life: a tombstone. The poet's tone establishes a cordial association with death with no animosity, worry or pain. The poet speaks with a composed voice when she says, "I had put away / My labor, and my leisure too, / For his civility" (6-8). Here the scene involves us two characters being civil with one another, which seems slightly abnormal when readers realize their exchange involves death. This exchange is heightened when readers realize the poet willingly steps into her own coffin without fear. Her calmness is one of the most astonishing pieces of the poem, giving readers insight into Dickinson's ideas regarding death and dying. She may fully know what is on the other side of death but she still holds very little fear of it. Robert Detweiler states the poem is one of Dickinson's "most perfect pieces" (Detweiler 132) with "remarkable images" (132) and a "confrontation of human life with immortality" (132). I agree with this impression because death is nothing but peculiar and this is why readers remember it.

Another example of Dickinson's strange interest with death is the poem, "I Heard a Fly Buzz in my Head." This poem takes a very different look at death than "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" because it looks at death from a darker perspective. With this poem, the poet looks back at her death working through sensory perception, with an emphasis on hearing. The first thing the poet notices upon death is a fly buzzing around. She notices the "stillness in the air" (Dickinson I Heard a Fly Buzz in my Head 3) and becomes aware of those around her mourning, wringing their eyes. In the last stanza, she senses a "blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz" (13), which interrupts the poet's awareness last wishes were being revealed. The fly, the prominent element of the poem, suggests Dickinson's attitude toward death may be nothing more than another event of decay. The poem is a mental exercise for the poet, as she seeks truth. What she finds is a desire to move through the instant of death but an inability to do so. It is important to note that after death, the poet is still conscious. The fly seems to be getting in the way of the last experience and the last bit of consciousness. Jhan Hochman notes that a fly "gets between the dying person and the light, and its buzz between the dying person and the stillness" (Hochman). He points out the poet states the windows fail, meaning the victim's eyes close, not that the sun stops shining. The fly "obliterates all thought of anything else"(Hochman), making the victim unable to see and "understand what is happening" (Hochman). With these thoughts, Hochman asserts the poem is "against the claim of knowing, against what it means to claim to know not only what will happen in death, but what a fly even is" (Hochman). I agree with his assertion because it is the unknowing that is unnerving. Michael Lake maintains the poet's use of the word "interpose" indicates that the fly is doing more than coming between, it is getting in the way, which makes it a symbol for the "ultimate destiny of all corporeal existence: decay, disintegration, and nothingness" (Lake). This poem illustrates the versatility of the poet when it comes to topic matters -- especially death. The end is unknown and the poet is not certain that the Christian point-of-view is the one with which we end up.

In "I Like the Look of Agony," we see an even different perspective on death with the poet approaching it with more sincerity than the previous two poems. With an objective point-of-view, the poet does not focus on a singular person but rather the moment of knowledge prior to death every dying person experiences. This moment lingers between life and death and the poet turns her mind's eye to it for further inspection. The poet focuses on the physical aspects of death as someone looking at death rather than a person experiencing it. She is, in this case, a quiet observer. The second stanza the poet observes part of the physical aspect of dying with the glazed eyes "that is death." These eyes cannot lie. This poem demonstrates how the poet can isolate a singular aspect of death, namely an agonizing moment prior to death, and see something unusual in it.

Life is not always about death and a poem that illustrates Dickinson's ability to look at life from a nature perspective is "A Light Exists in Spring." This nature poem takes readers on a different path by looking at the beauty of life in early spring. While the death poems tend to bee dark, this poem focuses on light. This light illuminates everything, as "It waits upon the lawn; / It shows the furthest tree / Upon the furthest slope we know; (Dickinson A Light Exists in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Life and Death Through the Eyes" Reaction Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Life and Death Through the Eyes.  (2011, October 14).  Retrieved September 26, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Life and Death Through the Eyes."  14 October 2011.  Web.  26 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Life and Death Through the Eyes."  October 14, 2011.  Accessed September 26, 2020.