Emily Dickinson Death Analysis

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3 Emily Dickinson, “The name – of it – is ‘Autumn’ (656)”

3.1 Death motif

Emily Dickinson’s depiction of death in her poem “The name – of it – is ‘Autumn’” is a stark contrast to Keats’ in “To Autumn”, since here, Autumn is a force of nature – violent, bloody, and corporeal. Dickinson’s Autumn (death) is nothing like Keats’ soft, patient, sleepy reaper; it accumulates metaphor upon metaphor of blood, being of a red colour itself, and carrying blood through the city, through humans’ living spaces, staining and flooding them in the process. What Mark Bracher calls Keats’ “ideology” of Autumn (Bracher 1990, 634), Michelle Kohler identifies as “rhetorical constructed-ness (Kohler 2013, 32)”, and states that Dickinson’s poem is a “rhetorical battlefield” (Kohler 2013, 45), in which Dickinson, by re-writing Autumn, points directly to the (in Keats’ ode, ideological) construction of Autumn as a concept. Keats’ images of abundance and riches in nature are echoed in Dickinson’s poem, and exaggerated through the above-mentioned accumulation of blood metaphors. This way, the poem aggressively reintroduces death into its autumnal landscape (Kohler 2013, 46).

3.2 Content

In the first stanza, “it” is identified as Autumn in the first line, and its colour is defined as blood-red in the second one. In the next two lines, body parts transporting blood (“An Artery”, l. 3; “A Vein”, l. 4) are integrated, more than juxtaposed, into the parts of the city, or humans’ living space
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