Death And Consciousness In Emily Dickinson's Poetry

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Emily Dickinson’s exploration of death and consciousness in “Because I could not stop for Death” and “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” reveals her skepticism about eternal life and God. Much of Emily Dickinson’s work focuses on the finality of consciousness in death and her relationship with God. Her poems ponder what it means to move from physical awareness to one that is purely metaphysical. “Because I could not stop for Death” and “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” highlight her unique view on the transfer of consciousness between life and death by reflecting on the mind during or after passing. Dickinson’s understanding of death was limited to her own experience which left her, like many others, questioning. Most won’t have a firsthand encounter…show more content…
Use of words like “lead,” “dropped,” “numb,” “plunged,” and “treading” give the poem a heavy, depressing tone. “Wrecked,” “solitary,” “space,” and “strange” further serve to evoke feelings of isolation. Imagery of a migraine comes to mind when envisioning the speaker feeling the beating like a drum, the creak of the floor, treading of feet, and tolling of the bell all within her brain until she is left alone with Silence. In fact, the “beating” in her brain becomes so extreme she feels as though her “[mind] was going numb.” Pain in death does not only comes physically, but mentally as well. “Mourners,” “breaking,” “beating,” “numb,” and “Wrecked” all illustrate the psychological pain the speaker is in during her death. With a solid grasp of what misery feels like, it would seem Dickinson was no stranger to mental anguish. Anderson acknowledges a letter in which she detailed a “terror,” which many ascribe to her knowledge about despair (10). It is also speculated that Dickinson feared life’s end, so it is no surprise then that she would depict death as “obliterating pain” akin to the greatest suffering she knew (Wolosky 181; Anderson…show more content…
Immortality and Eternity both make appearances in “Because I could not stop for Death.” Immortality is a passenger who rides with Death and the speaker, while eternity is the destination. Through death, humans escape their mortal condition. Immortality is not a “journey from here to there or from now to then,” but is rather the state which ushers the soul to eternity. Rather, “time is the journey” spiraling around eternity, and when immortality is achieved, “time… becomes static” (Budick 236; 237). Time as a journey is further reflected in the third stanza, when the carriage seems to drive past different stages of life. They travel past “the School, where Children strove,” symbolizing her youth, then to the fields of grain and finally arriving at the “Setting Sun” or the last chapter of the speaker’s life. If time is the passage, then eternity is a state without time. In the last stanza, the narrator recounts how, though it has been centuries, in her eternal state it feels as though it has only been a day since her carriage ride with Death. She has moved beyond time, into eternity. In this case, immortality “has as its central referent the mortality of the physical body,” meaning it is defined as being in a state without death, while eternity is timelessness (Harrison
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