Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Perspective of Death in "I heard a fly buzz-when I died" and "Because I could not stop for Death-"

The idea and personification of death are the main themes of Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a fly buzz - when I died-“ and “Because I could not stop for Death-.” In both poems, death is portrayed in different ways than normally thought of. This is important because it makes the reader think about death, and how it peaceful. The concept of death also makes the reader think about life and how he or she wants to live theirs out.

In “I heard a fly buzz-when I died,” the speaker describes the time she spent on her deathbed. During this time, there is one main distraction. This distraction is a fly, which flies around the room buzzing. Not only is this fly distracting the speaker from her death, but is actually described as death itself. The fly cuts the woman off from the light, and does not allow her to see. This is very interesting as death is described as something so tiny and insignificant when it is such a huge part of people’s lives. It allows for the reader to try and understand what death means to them.

In “Because I could not stop for Death,” Dickinson personifies death. She describes Death as a man who stops for her, and takes her on a trip. The trip is slow, very much like a funeral procession. It even takes steps along this procession, as they stop at a school, a field, and a house. This describes the life of a person, their coming of age, their working, and their life at home. It seems to me that Dickinson uses these images to describe everything that leads up to death in order to show what life is all about. This poem shows all that life is through death. It tells of everything we do up until we die. Essentially, the speaker is telling that no matter how we live, we will find Death. Also at the end, the speaker mentions eternity. It states that death is the final destination, and we will be there forever. Ultimately, this poem shows that no matter how one life’s their life and no matter where they go, they will always find Death.

In both poems, death is the main idea. The idea of conventional death is switched around. It is made to be a small part of someone’s life and a large part of someone’s life. With these different definitions of death, two perspectives are given, allowing the reader to figure out what death, and ultimately life mean to them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Many Views of Death

The poems, “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –” and “Because I could not stop for Death –” written by Emily Dickinson, develop the theme of mortality, although they each demonstrate different views. “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –” creates the atmospheres before, during, and after death. The poem starts with a room of “stillness” and peacefulness, but that is quickly disrupted by the actions of a fly. The fly represents death; it symbolizes the struggle between the forces of darkness and light. The poem concludes with the line “I could not see to see” which implies the speaker is unsatisfied and desired to see more in her life before it was terminated. The poem “Because I could not stop for Death –” presents a different view of death. Here the speaker reveals a calm acceptance of death. She refers to her grave as “a House” which implies a sense of comfort and assurance. In this poem the theme is more directed to the fact that death should not be feared for it is natural and part of life. In a way it is ironic that these two poems, written so close to one another, display such different views. The poem “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –” describes death as chaotic and evil, while “Because I could not stop for Death –” demonstrates acceptance.
The poem “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –” demonstrates Dickinson’s unconventional broken rhyming meter and use of long dashes and random capitalization. The purpose of the broken rhyming meter, use of long dashes, and random capitalization is to show tension in the poem. The long dashes serve to interrupt the meter. The poem “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –” has the, unobvious rhyme scheme ABCB. In the first three stanzas, Dickinson uses half-rhymes such as room/storm, firm/room, and be/fly to develop this rhyme scheme. In the forth stanza, Dickinson uses a full rhyme with the words me/see. This poem is in the form of trimeter and tetrameter iambic lines. This means there are four stresses in the first and third lines of each stanza and three stresses in the second and forth lines of each stanza. Dickinson chooses to represent death in the form of a fly because a fly is an annoyance. The fly symbolizes evil and chaos and also serves to create the struggle between the forces of darkness and light. The final stanza is very important to the poems main purpose. In the second to last line the speaker states “the Windows failed.” The “Windows” symbolize her eyes. This leads to the concluding line “I could not see to see –” which represents that she has died. The theme of mortality is heavily present throughout the poem. Dickinson does a good job creating the atmosphere before, during, and after death. The final lines of the poem explore the connection between sight and self. The repetition of “see to see” implies that the speaker desired to see more before she died. In line 5 we see this idea of “The Eyes” again, but it is used differently this time. Here, “The Eyes” represents those around her, family and friends, who are mourning and grieving. “The Eyes” in line 5 represents the theme of family present in the poem. The theme of family is also present in line 9 when it says, “I willed my Keepsakes…” which demonstrates the signing of her will. The overall meaning of the poem “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –” is the chaos and disruption of death.
The poem “Because I could not stop for Death –” incorporates a peaceful tone which reveals a calm acceptance of death. The overall theme of the poem is that death is not something that should be feared because it is a natural occurrence in the cycle of life. Throughout the poem there are several references that promote the idea of acceptance and comfort of death. For example, in line 17 the speaker refers to her grave as “a House.” This demonstrates comfort because a home is something that is depicted as warm and cozy. In this poem Dickinson resorts to refection of life. In lines 9-12 the speaker reveals the stages of life. The lines “We passed the school, where children strove, at recess, in the ring” symbolize childhood. The line “We passed the fields of gazing grain” symbolizes maturity. The line “We passed the setting sun” symbolizes growing old, death. This aids to the idea of acceptance and the reminiscence and reflection on the speakers life. Death is personified in the poem as a suitor taking the speaker for a ride in his carriage (almost like a grim reaper character). The carriage ride represents the journey of life and explores the moment before death when your life flashes before your eyes.
In conclusion, there are many cases where poetry is meant to be dissected to find meaning that is not necessarily on the surface. These meanings can create a completely different view for some literary works. Emily Dickinson is an extremely unique individual whose background contributes to the meaning of much of her works. She is credited as one of the most famous poets in the 19th century. Dickinson has her own style of writing. She writes as an escape and to free her thoughts that are bottled up within. Several of her poems including “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –” display this unorganized style. She differs from Langston Hughes style of formulaic writing, but her style allows for intense imagery and description which strengthens her arguments.

Live It Up

The mystery of life and how to live it well is represented in several literary and poetical works, though each in a unique manner, and those works are: Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and Emily Dickinson’s poems, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died,” and “Success is Counted Sweetest.” In Hemingway’s short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” the main character, Francis Macomber, exemplifies that, sometimes, a tragedy must occur in order to start living one’s life to the fullest. In Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” she stresses the importance of making time for life, because it passes one by in a flash and can end when least expected. In her poem, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” she disputes the traditional maxim and suggests that ‘honesty is not always the best policy.’ In the poem, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died Today,” Dickinson describes that the smallest things can take precedence over more important matters at the most inconvenient times. In Dickinson’s poem, “Success is Counted Sweetest,” she explains that the least successful people are often the ones who understand and appreciate success the most. While there is no singular right way to live one’s life, Dickinson and Hemingway both propose that there are certain measures that can be taken into account along the way to attain the greatest meaning from and appreciation of life while living it.

Hemingway’s short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” is so named because Macomber does not start living his life to the fullest and happiest potential until the final moments of his life. Similarly, at the conclusion of Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Good Man is Hard to Find,” a character, known as the misfit, explains that the grandmother, “would have been a good woman, if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” This is a dramatic way of saying that it is often in the final moments of one’s life, that one’s best and truest self is revealed. In the grandmother’s and in Macomber’s fictional lives, they are both seen as their best selves just prior to the end of their respective lives. Hemingway’s story illustrates that, since there is no telling when one may die, everyone should live their life to the absolute fullest—every day. In Macomber’s final moments, he finally conquers his two great fears—one of ‘the beast’ he was hunting and the other of ‘the beast of a wife’ that he had. Once his wife sees this significant change in him, she knows that he will no longer be too cowardly to leave her. To prevent what is bound to happen, she shoots him. Macomber’s hunting coach, Wilson, puts it eloquently when he quotes Shakespeare, “By my troth, I care not; a man can die but once; we owe God a death and let it go which way it will, he that dies this year is quit for the next” (502). Essentially, Wilson is saying that everyone dies eventually; if not today, then another day. Therefore, everyone should live life to the fullest while they still have life within them.

In Dickinson’s poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” the speaker is so busily doing this that, throughout every stage of her life, that she hardly even notices that the life she is living is quickly passing her by. So much so, in fact, that she is completely unprepared to face death when the moment arrives. The unexpected visit from the Grim Reaper catches her off guard. Though she has lived her life, it is unclear whether or not she really accomplished everything she had set out to do. The fact that she is so surprised to learn that she is not immortal and cannot control death shows that she may have been going through the motions of living, instead of actually living in the moment each and every day. Dickinson points out the importance of stopping to smell the roses in life, to cherish the small things along the way. The speaker in the poem is so busy that she did not stop and notice life as it was happening, and, before she knew it, life was over. Death is the one thing that she cannot control or put off until the next day. Just as Sarah MacLauchlan’s song, “I Will Remember You,” suggests, “Don't let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories.” Moments should be savored before they are gone. Similarly, Harry Chapin’s song, “Cats in the Cradle,” is all about the regrets of a father who did not spend his time wisely and who prioritized all the wrong things while he was raising his son. He regretted not being more active in his son’s life, and, when he finally realized his mistake, it was too late and he regrettably noted that “my son is just like me.” Peter Meinke’s poem, “Untitled,” also exemplifies a father who has regret and remorse after he realizes the effects his abusive behavior had on his son, Peter. Sometimes, acknowledging the truth of a situation can be more difficult than the situation itself was.

It is revealed in Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Tell the Truth but tell it slant,” that telling the true is not always a good thing. In fact, telling a little white lie may be the best option, for both the liar and the one to whom the lie is being told. The person who is hearing the lie may not say it aloud, but he or she does not want to hear the truth. The person would rather believe what he or she wants to believe. Sometimes, in the face of painful truths, it is easier to look the other way than to have to face what has happened. “The Truth must dazzle gradually, Or every man be blind---” (lines 7-8). If the truth were to be spilled all at once, that might cause someone to have a heart attack. Like the saying goes, “What mama don’t know won’t hurt her.” Some things are better left unsaid, especially when it comes to the truth of what certain children have done (line 5). It is not always easy to control what comes out of one’s mouth in times of great stress. Likewise, it is not easy to control one’s thoughts, chiefly at the most frantic, hectic times.

The poem, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died,” written by Emily Dickinson, reflects upon the peculiarity of how the smallest things can take precedence at some of the most significant moments in one’s life. At times, the small thing can become the main focus until, it starts to eat away at one’s brain and leaves no room for any of the important things upon which he or she should be focused. Once the person is focused on that small, unimportant thing, there is no letting it go, and then he or she is completely distracted from attending to the more important matter at hand. For example, the woman in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” is so fixated on the idea of leaving the room in which she is forced to stay and getting rid of the wallpaper that she eventually goes insane. She becomes so obsessed with the thought of getting rid of the wallpaper that she cannot think of anything else. She initially goes to the house to improve her behavior and to get better, but she ends up doing the complete opposite. The same thing happens to the person in the poem, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died.” The speaker is on her deathbed, yet the only thing to which she pays any attention is the fly buzzing around her. It is odd that, at such a crucial moment, the thing that comes to mind is a measly fly. Such odd fixations occur in life at critical times, often to take the focus off of the current situation at hand. It enables a person to take his or her nervous energy and place it somewhere else. In psychology, this human behavior is called displacement. According to Freud, people use displacement as an unconscious defense mechanism in which the mind redirects from an object felt to be dangerous or unacceptable to an object felt to be safe or acceptable. For example, if someone gets fired, the person might go home and hit his or her child to get out anger, even though it is misdirecting the anger at the wrong person. It is easier for the person to focus on being upset at a child, than to face the fact that they were fired. Life is not just all of the time; people get treated unfairly, even when they have done nothing to wrong to deserve their mistreatment. However, sometimes, in the midst of experiencing an injustice, persons can develop qualities that are useful—such as appreciation and motivation.

Success can be most enticing to those who do not have it, as demonstrated in Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Success is Counted Sweetest.” The speaker describes that success is “sweetest” for those who do not succeed (lines 1-2). This is best understood when someone wants something so badly that he or she is willing to put everything into it. Then, to have that someone or something taken out of his or her clutches can be completely devastating. It does not matter if it is a relationship, a championship, or a plastic toy ship. Others may not be able to relate, but the significance is in eye of the beholder. For example, in the movie, Dan in Real Life, the young daughter of Steve Carell’s character exclaims that her father is a “murderer of love” because he thinks that his daughter is too young to be in a relationship with her current boyfriend. To the father, it is a silly, adolescent crush, but, to her, it is serious, true love; being denied it is devastating to her. When people already have what is important to them, they can take it for granted. Once it is gone, they then realize how valuable the thing was to them. For those who have success, it may be taken for granted, but for those striving for it, and who have had and lost success, it becomes the most important thing in the world to them. The people who have never had the thing most desired, or, worse, as in a situation such as in, Flowers for Algernon, when one has had and then lost what one most desires, the sense of loss is tremendous, and, along with that, the depth of appreciation for what was lost, is great. In Zora Neale Hurston’s short story, “The Gilded Six-Bits,” the main characters, Missie May and Joe, want what they cannot have—gold. Once they obtain some gold, they no longer can even look at it. It is not as glamorous as it had seemed. Before they had the gold, they were much happier. The saying, “the grass is always greener on the other side,” suits their situation very well. As the poem, “Success is Counted Sweetest,” suggests, the defeated understand victory better than the victorious. They have more of an appreciation for their un-reached goal than does the one who has reached it. Falling short of their goal, in the end, will motivate them to work harder to achieve their goal, even if, once they obtain it, it no longer is as satisfactory as they had expected.

Through Ernest Hemingway’s short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and Emily Dickinson’s poems, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant,” “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died,” and “Success is Counted Sweetest,” various, untraditional life lessons are illustrated. The lessons vary from learning: to start living once death is near, to not let life pass by while just going through the motions, to see lying as a positive action, to be distracted by small things during intense times, and to long for what one does not have can lead to constructive outcomes. These abstract ideas may not seem logical, some are counter-intuitive, and many are exactly opposite of what has been taught to believe. They question the way people live their lives and often point toward taking an unbeaten path, which they may or may not choose to do, but they can truly benefit from considering these alternate points of view. The richness of learning about life through literature is that it enables the reader to observe the character’s foibles and experimentations that which they need not themselves try. This is a wonderfully low-risk way of exploring new ideas and arriving at conclusions for their own lives.

Death in Literature

Nicole Santarpia

Emily Dickinson’s poems: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant--”, “Success is Counted Sweetest--”, “I heard a Fly buzz--when I died,”, “Because I could not stop for Death—” and Ernest Hemmingway’s “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” largely touch upon death in some way and those works that don’t describe or play into emotions or actions experienced with death.

“Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”’ talks about the honestly in you speech. You should tell the truth but not the whole truth, there should be some sense of deception. This reminds me of death because when people know they are sick and dying oftentimes they will try to hide it from loved ones; they won’t tell them the extent of their illnesses to try to shield them and possibly make those last memories happy ones. Also, sometimes there are family member or loved ones, especially the young, who cannot always handle the whole truth.

“Success is counted Sweetest” also plays into death. Dickinson describes to us that success is not always nest understood and appreciated by those who win, but more so by those who are defeated. They “count it sweetest” and have the “sorest need” to win. Dickinson mentions the dying and defeated solider at the end of her poem. I think that it is at the end of your life that you begin to appreciate all you’re life circumstances even though they weren’t all favorable.

In “I heard a Fly buzz--when I died,” we see the short process of someone’s final moments on earth the eyes around them are all dried up from tears and the people are tensely and carefully breathing awaiting the final moment of their loved one. In such a crucial time when that person dying would normally be saying goodbye they are noticing a simple fly in the room. This poem represents how even though this person is dying they are appreciating the little things in life like the fly.

“Because I could not Stop for Death—“ describes a person who was too bust living their life to the fullest to die or be concerned by death. They could not stop and wait for death to get them because they were too busy living, The person realizes that eventually they will die, but they are not going to stop living in the mean time, let death come get them.

Ernest Hemingway’s “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, depicts Macomber literally being shot by his wife was sleeping with his hunting mate. Macomber is very passive and cowardice and this way his wife walks all over him. Macomber is even aware that she had slept with someone else the night before. In attempts to be manlier he sees a Buffalo and shoots it a few times killing it as it charges him. His wife intentionally shoots him and kills him because she is doesn’t like his new sense of self-esteem. Macomber was finally free of his wife, but in order to keep herself dominant she shoots him.

As one can see there are many different facets of death being discussed in Emily Dickinson’s poems: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant--”, “Success is Counted Sweetest--”, “I heard a Fly buzz--when I died,”, “Because I could not stop for Death—” and Ernest Hemmingway’s “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”. Emotions of death, reasoning, and much more are discussed in these works.

Happiness in Life and Death

Ernest Hemingways, "Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber," and Emily Dickinson's, "Tell all the truth but tell it slant," "Success is Counted Sweetest," "I heard a Fly buzz--when I died," and "Because I could not stop for Death," all show how happiness can be found both through life and death. Fear, desire and acceptance are three common life factors that can lead to ultimately finding happiness in both life and death.

Hemingway shows how fear can overtake the lives of human beings when he tells the story of Macomber. He shows how his fear leads to problems in his life and does not allow him to live life to its fullest. His strong fear of the lion eventually allows courage to become present in his life and when Macomber finds the courage to overcome his fears he begins to be happy with his life, although there are other problems going on in his life. On the other hand, as Macomber's wife sees him overcoming his fear and his building courage, she becomes fearful of her husband. She notices that her husband is tarting to become happier when his is overcoming his fears, and this is when her fear takes over her life and leads to the death of her husband. Hemingway shows that human life should not be lived full of fear, but courage needs to be present to overcome the present fears and allow humans to live a happy life.

Dickinson shows how desire leads to happiness in life, in both "Success is Counted Sweetest" and "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant." In the first poem she tells of how success is very important in the lives of human beings, it is what all humans desire and essentially is one of the basic entities of life. The desire of success, will eventually lead to success, but different people will have different understandings of the success of which they find, for the ones who have experienced success less or not at all, will appreciate and notice the little things about success more than those who are constantly successful. In the second poem she shows how the desire for the truth ultimately leads to happiness in life. Although this happiness cannot be found if the truth is told straight up, the truth has to be found at the own pace of different individuals. For sometimes the truth can be hard to handle, and to be happy people need to understand the truth to its fullest and therefore needs to be understood at the pace of the individual.

In both "I heard a Fly buzz--when I died" and "Because I could not stop for Death," Dickinson portrays the importance of acceptance in the lives of humans. In the first poem she tells about fearing death and her ultimate fate. But through her time of death she realizes that in times of death, nothing is meaningless. The most insignificant things become meaningful and therefore we need to accept death and put full confidence in our fate. In the second poem she shows how the acceptance of death is important in living life. She describes how death has presented itself in her life and how it has finally arrived to take someone. She then recalls her past, and through her past memories she finds that death should not be feared at all for it is a natural cycle of life, and that through accepting death it will lead to hopefulness and happiness of a persons true destiny.

Although life and death are considered the opposite in most minds, in the simplest forms, life and death are based upon the same entities. Humans need to live their lives to the fullest, but at the same time need to learn to accept their fate and ultimate destiny in order to be able to overlook death and live life the best way possible. There is no need to let fear of death to take over ones life, for it will lead to problems, and it is much better to live a life of happiness rather than fear.

Death: Gratifying or Punishing?

In this week’s reading – Ernest Hemingway’s “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and Emily Dickinson’s “Success if Counted Sweetest—,” “I Heard a Fly buzz—when I died,” and “Because I could not stop for Death—” – all of the works attempt to dissect and illuminate different accounts of death and its significance in human nature. While death can bear a plethora of meanings, both authors successfully project the ambiguity of whether death is a pleasurable release or a bitter usurpation of life.

In Hemingway’s “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” the reader encounters the tense setting of the African wild. Francis Macomber, a seemingly strong and able man, ventures regularly into the grassy plains with his professional hunting partner (Robert Wilson) in search of large game animals. When Macomber fails to finish off an injured lion, he is deemed a coward. From here, the story takes a turn for the worse: arguments with his wife begin to emerge, revealing a troubled past between the married couple. Hemingway carefully adds the details that Macomber’s wife Margot is quite beautiful and that Macomber is very wealthy, essentially listing the sole two factors as to why they do not divorce each other. This tension culminates in the final scene of the story when Macomber, Wilson, and Margot are shooting at a bull buffalo and Margot “accidently” shoots Macomber. Here, as evidenced in many of Hemingway’s stories, this sudden ending is left open for interpretation – was it Margot’s intention to kill her husband? Did she “choose” to kill him, sparing him a troubled life and freeing him from their terrible marriage? Personally, I believe that Margot did not purposefully murder Macomber. One should carefully note that Margot is crying “hysterically” (505), which shows that she is genuinely sad about the death of her husband. Furthermore, even if Margot did mean to kill Macomber, her expressions of sadness and disgust with Wilson let on that she regrets her terrible actions.

In a slightly different light, Dickson’s “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—,” and “I Heard a Fly buzz—when I died” portray a similar perspective on death. For instance, both poems appear to give off negative connotations that encapsulate their respective views on death. In “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—,” the author implies that one must articulate the truth without any details (in its bare, basic form). To stress this point, Dickinson writes, “The Truth must dazzle gradually / Or every man be blind –” (7-8). It is made clear that the truth (for example, whether or not Margot loved Macomber/meant to kill him) must be revealed gradually, otherwise one will be blinded its harsh reality. (This is shown in the end of Hemingway’s story – the “Truth” behind Macomber’s death had a significant impact on Margot.) In “I Heard a Fly buzz—when I died,” Dickinson attempts to show the harsh simplicity of death. With phrases such as “The Stillness in the Room” (2) and “uncertain stumbling Buzz—” (12), Dickinson strips all elaborate interpretations and thoughts on death, showing that death is simple: once you are dead, that is it. To magnify the insignificance of death, she chooses a fly – the weakest of creatures – to act as the last lingering thought on the dead person’s mind, rendering the thought of death less important than a fly’s dull buzz.

Conversely, Dickson’s two other poems – “Because I could not stop for Death—” and “Success if Counted Sweetest—” – illuminate death as a pleasurable release from life. “Because I could not stop for Death” portrays death as an enjoyable carriage ride (“The Carriage held but just Ourselves” (3)), with the figure of death being the carriage driver. Dickinson paints a beautiful picture, writing that they “slowly drove” (5) through a scene of frolicking schoolchildren, “Fields of Gazing Grain” (11), “the Setting Sun” (13), and into eternity. In this depiction of death, the passage into the afterlife (and presumably the afterlife itself) seems peaceful, even blissful. Similarly, in “Success if Counted Sweetest—,” Dickinson also exhibits death in a positive light. In the opening of the poem, she states that “Success is counted sweetest / By those who ne’er succeed” (1-2), showing that “success” can only be truly achieved by those who cannot obtain it. She later gives the example of a dying soldier (“As he defeated—dying—“ (9)) to express that only in death can one comprehend the amount of success in one’s life. Furthermore, she writes that “The distant strains of triumph / Burst agonized and clear!” (11-12), which clarifies the point that death allows one to realize any unforeseen truths about life – with this, one can pass onto a relaxing, carefree afterlife.

All in all, Hemingway’s “Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” and Dickinson’s “Success if Counted Sweetest—,” “I Heard a Fly buzz—when I died,” and “Because I could not stop for Death—” truly break down the definition of death and portray it as both a harsh, simple event and a joyous release from life. These tremendous works hint that while death may seem to play an important role in human nature, it may be insignificant (with no afterlife, perhaps just dull, indefinite “buzz”) just as much as it may be significant (a journey to a better place, free from life’s burdens). Either way, one can only wait to see – or not see – what lies ahead.

The Ironic Life of Francis Macomber

In The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, by Ernest Hemingway, the main character Francis meets his untimely death while on a safari with his manipulative wife Margot. Francis’ largest flaw lies in his cowardice, not only in regards to fleeing from a lion but in not confronting his wife’s passive aggressive nature, which dominates their relationship. In the end, it is Margot who in fact does kill Francis, taking with her his pride despite his last attempt to finally reclaim it.

In Emily Dickinson’s poem “Tell the Truth but Tell is Slant,” the speaker is advising her audience to tell the truth, however, to tell it in a way that does not offend. “The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind,” points out the sharp edge the truth may have. Margot was constantly using the truth, or her version of such, as a knife to cut her husband Francis, causing his blindness to seriously affect his bravery.

Dickinson’s poem “Success is Counted Sweetest” was my favorite poem as it presented a seriously ironic point, delivered in a manner reminiscent of a nursery rhyme. “Success is counted sweetest By those who ne’er succeed,” depicts the struggle in life to succeed, whether it be in a small task such as a daily run or a lifetime goal of finding a medical cure. No matter the task, success is always the goal. Ironically, however, the closer one gets to achieving success the more it becomes their obsession when in reality the journey and what is gained along the way should also count towards achievement. Francis Macomber measured success in terms of bravery; his serious lack of courage when facing the lion caused Macomber to feel inadequate. However, nothing is more bittersweet than achieving ones goal and as a result not being able to relish in its glory. As was the case in The Birthmark, success is not, after all, what was truly desired in the end. At the end of Francis Macomber’s short and sweet life, he faces his fears and obtains success by challenging the water buffalo. At this very moment, his life is taken and although he will forever live in memory as a brave man, he will never be able to receive the praise or respect that would have befallen him.

A Deeper Look

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway, and Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”, “Success is Counted Sweetest” “I heard a Fly buzz when I died”, and “Because I could not stop for Death” all describe stories pertaining to life’s customary instances and emotions, depicting deeper image of it. These stories have an educational feel as they allow the reader to think differently. The contents of the poems make you think more in depth to these common situations in life.

Ernest Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” tells a story of a wealthy man and beautiful wife who go on an African safari. For the majority of the story, Francis is still young and cowardly in nature. This is something that his wife, Margot strongly dislikes and uses against him. By the end of the tale, Francis is changing for the better and exuberates a newfound courage consisting of no fear. “You know something did happen to me, I feel absolutely different” (502). Margot hates this and feels like she is losing psychological control over her husband. Because of this she shoots her husband, who is truly happy for the first time in his life. This made me realize that a man who seemed to “have it all” and live the celebrity lifestyle really did not have anything at all until the last moments of his life. How many people of his stature in our society feel the same deep inside?

Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” is a poem that conveys just what the title reads. I interpreted it as the truth is staring us in the face, but we cannot always see it, nor should we be able to. The truth is told or revealed in gradual moderation, possibly for our own benefit. I never had this thought written out for me but from personal experience I would say this is definitely true. This poem made me look back and think how it would have been a lot more comfortable for me to progressively face reality rather than have it laid on me all at once. Having the latter happen can be an immediate shocker to say the least.

“Success is Counted Sweetest” teaches you that those who never or rarely succeed place the highest value on success. In the last two stanzas, Dickinson gave her readers the mental illustration of a dying soldier overhearing the triumph of the opposing army. “Not one of all the purple Host who took the Flag today can tell the definition so clear of Victory” (Lines 5-8). She is telling us that the dying man understands victory more clearly than the conquering army, as he has experienced failure. He will never experience that success, so no positive experiences can lessen the value put on victory in his mind. If we never experience both sides of the spectrum, we will never truly understand how success or let down feels like.

The fly in “I heard a Fly buzz when I died” was the figure of death in the poem. I found it interesting that a small little fly, a creature that no one ever cares for, is made to be the symbol of death, something so strong. “With Blue, uncertain stumbling Buzz, between the light and me, and then the Windows failed, and then I could not see to see” (Lines 14-17). The fly cut the speaker off from the light until she could not see anymore. This goes to show that even in situations like this, with all of our family around and your life (supposedly) flashing before your eyes, something so irrelevant can be focused on. We as people tend to concentrate too much on the insignificant aspects of life.

“Because I could not stop for Death” was actually my personal favorite from the readings for today. In this poem, Dickinson calmly accepts death. Stanza one shows death arriving in a carriage with stanza two presenting the carriage pushing slowing along the road. (Implying a slow death) The narrator reviews her life in the third stanza, looking back at her childhood, maturity and finally her decent into old age and eventual death. People are so scared to die, admittedly even myself. The message is not to fear death, as it is natural. It leads to a new beginning, as evidenced by the gown the narrator wore.

These readings for today each dealt with feelings and events that we will all experience in our lifetime. While they all have different views and common beliefs, Ernest Hemingway and Emily Dickinson wanted their audience to think about these standard emotions and procedures in an extreme or completely different sense. In my case they successfully did that. The poems that I read for today have to be my favorite thus far.

Altered Angles on Life

Emily Dickinson’s four poems “Success is Counted Sweetest--”, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant--”, “I heard a Fly buzz-- when I died,” and “Because I could not stop for Death--” all describe ordinary life events but in a different perception. The speaker offers a new light on how we normally view things like success, truth, and death.

“Success is Counted Sweetest--” tells us who knows the real meaning of success which may vary from what we have previously known. The people who have the most knowledge of success are the unsuccessful. Only they know the pleasure that comes from succeeding after failing many times. People who are simply victorious would not be able to express this same emotion. Since they have not experienced the pain of failure, they would not understand the extreme joy of winning.

In “Tell all the truth but tell it slant--”, Dickinson says that the truth all at once may come across as a bit of a shock. But if the truth is told piece by piece then it will be “as Lightening to the Children eased With explanation kind”. This is different from the conventional view of the “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. She is not telling us to lie, but rather to tell the truth gradually. People will receive the truth in a more understanding way.

“I heard a Fly buzz--when I died” paints the scene of the speaker on her deathbed recounting her final moments. She is surrounded by her lamenting family and already signed off her possessions. In her dying moments, she notices a fly buzzing around the room. Dickinson portrays the speaker’s final moments as ordinary but then twists the focus onto the fly. Even though she is surrounded by people, it is the fly, an irrelevant part of her life, that is the final image in her head. Dickinson makes the point that in some of the most important parts of our life, we put too much focus on the little things and we neglect the significant things. We normally expect our dying moments to be reflections and memories of our lives. In this poem, the last thing the speaker sees and thinks about is a trivial, vexing fly.

In “Because I could not stop for Death--”, Dickinson personifies Death as a gentlemanly and courteous person. The speaker was to busy in her life and was not thinking about her mortality. Death comes by and she rides in its carriage. Before the speaker dies, she reflects on her life from childhood to adulthood. This poem opposes the view of death as something to be feared and avoided. Rather, this is about accepting death because it is just another part of life. Dickinson compares the grave to a house in one of her metaphors. A house is a warm, comforting place which is a direct opposite from the grave, a cold, frightening place. She uses this comparison to show the relationship between the living and the dead’s versions of ‘home’.

In each of her four poems, “Success is Counted Sweetest--”, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant--”, “I heard a Fly buzz-- when I died,” and “Because I could not stop for Death--”, Emily Dickinson depicts the ordinary aspects of human life with a novel and sometimes contrary view.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Succeed Happily

Americans today are seen as selfish people who will do anything to make their life better and more successful. I will even go as far to say that human beings, as a whole, are considered in my opinion to be a selfish race. In our readings this week we see the comparison of what makes people successful and what they are willing to do to get the title. We also see this idea our life, which we have made so great, come to an end.
In the poem Success is Counted Sweetest we see the popular idea of success being proven wrong. In the first stanza it states that the ones who are not glorified are the real war heroes, and are the ones who succeed. War today is seen as a competition of who can be the best and strongest and gain the most hero bling as possible. Emily Dickinson is opening our eyes to what war should be about and who should get the most glory. We should remember that war is about standing up for your country and about giving all you can. In the second stanza she calls out the survivors of war who are seen as heroes and who gets the glory and ability to take down the flag. They may have the most metals on their wall, but they miss the success Emily is pointing out. In the end she tells that the ones who go through the hells of war and die are the ones who should be honored most and they are the ones who are the most successful, in that they gave their life. It has a positive tone and has a rhyme scheme which rhymes every other line. This leaves the reader with a sense of respect for these people.
I heard a Fly buzz- when I died, is a poem which is set in the format of a iambic pentameter. This makes the reading go along smoothly and have a nice mellow feel to it. The reader states in the first line that the last thing she heard before she died was a fly buzz; not a magical song or any other insect, but an everyday, ordinary fly. This, I believe, is not a random choice of bug, but an appropriate one in that she is pointing out the idea that when you die your possessions and luxury things are of no worth, and they will not be with you to help or hold your hand in during your last breathes. It is a somber idea when it is put that flatly, but it’s also a true one. With the iambic pentameter and soft diction and tone Emily makes it easy for the reader to accept the idea that, in the end you cannot pick your surroundings, death with find you and take you wherever you are.
My favorite reading this week would have to be, Because I could not stop for Death. It has a lot of clever personifications. By personifying death to be this kind, patient person makes the speaker, and in hand the reader, more open to the idea and accepting of the idea of death. By masking the casket and a grave in metaphors to be a carriage and a house, the reader thinks that the speaker is just taking a nice stroll through the town passing the surroundings and admiring houses. Death is accepted here, it is clearly shown through repetition which shows the gradual path of acceptance.
We are brought back to the idea of success in Emily Dickinson’s poem, Tell all the Truth but tell is slant. We are told that success is made when it is gradual. Just as truth should be taken and told with a grain of salt and let out in bits and pieces, we should take this advice and live it through gaining success. There is a happy feel to this poem, but also a hidden tone of caution. The detail about being blinded is there to protect and warn us about what may happen if the advice is not headed.
The sarcastic humor of the title, The Short Happy life of Francis Macomber, is not fully appreciated until you read it through. This story puts the reader in the minds of each of the characters. They are each personified in their own way and have their own ideas about life and success. This story tells of a man who goes his whole life trying to be seen as this successful happy man, but in reality he is filled with a disconnecting relationship with his wife and a life of fear. He wants to succeed in killing a lion; he wants to be seen as brave. The majority of this story is dedicated in characterizing this man as a scared coward, but then right at the end we see a change in his being, where he gains the confidence to make a happy life. It’s sad that people live most their lives trying to be someone they are not and trying to settle for their unhappy lives. Some may come to a realization, but it’s usually too late, just like poor Francis. This story does what all the poems do, in that its makes the reader realize that success is not found in material things it’s found in happiness and that we should learn to accept things and live our life to our own standards not other peoples.

Countercultural Perspectives on Death

The readings for this class conveyed many different views on death, its purpose, and its value in everyday life. At once these works display it as something good and beneficial and also as an opportunity to reflect, rather than the inevitable depressing ending to life that is so often presented in our society. Overall then, death is presented in these stories and poems from a much different perspective than that which most people are used to.

In “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, the title serves as a metaphor for the brief moments of happiness Macomber enjoys when he overcomes his fears and cowardice. His relationship with his wife is greatly strained until he comes to face his fear and decides to take on the buffalo at the end of the story. This seminal moment in the story also serves as a sort of rebirth for Macomber: “Macomber felt a wild unreasonable happiness that he had never known before” (502). This line is the completion of a vast emotional swing over the course of a page or two that gives Macomber a new, happy life. Death, in this case, arrives at the most enjoyable time of his life, allowing him to die a happy man instead of the coward he seems to have always been. The title, then, recounts the brief life that Macomber actually lived as a happy man, instead of the long miserable life he replaced.

In Dickinson’s poems, she presents many differing viewpoints on death. In “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—“, Dickinson presents a rather nonchalant approach to death and dying. Although she is very aware of the fact that she is dying, as evinced by the fact that she has written a will and given away all she could, she still notices little things, like a fly in the room. Death doesn’t seem to faze her, really. I feel this perspective is one of the most valuable that can be presented about death. I suppose the fact that I feel this way makes me somewhat biased, but I feel as though people spend incredible amounts of time worrying about death instead of focusing on what’s around. Not to sound, morbid, but everyone dies eventually, so considering that fact a nonplussed attitude towards death would seem rational to me—focus on what you can change, not what is set in stone. In “Because I could not stop for Death”, the combination of death and immortality is presented very interestingly. Immortality is, from a certain perspective, a constant avoidance of death. Yet here they are presented as riding in the same carriage. Dickinson uses this contrast to once again harp on the fact that people are far too concerned with death. Avoiding death just isn’t an option, as even immortality has been claimed by death in this poem. Again Dickinson uses her poetry to convey the message that death is something unavoidable, and that life should be of greater concern than death.

The works of Hemingway and Dickinson present very interesting views of death. Both writers present it not as something bad, but rather something that is just a part of life that should not be our primary concern.

Recognizing the Inevitable

The short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, and the poems“Because I could not stop for Death”, and “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died” all share a common idea of death and the acceptance of death. The short story by Ernest Hemmingway displays the idea of accepting death with the actions of the main character, Francis Macomber. Emily Dickinson’s poems also share a similar outlook on death. Hemmingway’s story and Dickinson’s poems both express the idea of the acceptance of death.

In the short story by Hemmingway, the character of Francis Macomber changes. He hunts wild animals with a man named Robert Wilson. Francis and his wife Margaret have an interesting relationship in that he won’t leave her because of her beauty and she won’t leave him because of his wealth. The two do not belong with each other at all and Margaret even sleeps with Robert Wilson one night after the hunting of the lion. Francis begins to experience a change within himself after he successfully kills the lion. He is even looking forward to the next hunting of the buffalo and says that he would take on another lion if given the chance. It is almost as if Francis no longer fears the possibility that one small mistake could result in his death. He is now accepting of death and is ready to take on any challenge ahead of him with great confidence. When he takes on the buffalo with Robert Wilson his wife takes a shot which hits him and kills him leaving the reader to wonder if it was an accident or intentional. Hemmingway’s short story shows the idea of not fearing death but accepting it.

Emily Dickinson’s two poems also share the common theme of death. “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died” portrays a person who is about to die when they hear the sound of a fly buzzing. The person’s loved ones and the “King” which represents God are in the room, but the fly is the last thing the person hears and sees before their death. We know that the person has accepted their death because of line 9 “I willed my Keepsakes-Signed away”. This is basically saying that the person is ready to accept the oncoming death. This relates to Hemmingway’s short story because Francis was also ready for any kind of death that may have been pursuing him.

“Because I could not stop for Death” is another poem that portrays the idea of the acceptance of death. Death is represented by a person driving a carriage containing the speaker and the carriage drives through the memories of the speaker. With the use of the word “kindly” to describe the way in which death stopped for the person we know that death is something the speaker views as inevitable. “We passed the School, where Children strove” represents the childhood memories of the speaker enhanced by the capitalization of school and children. The speaker in the poem has accepted death and is just reflecting on some memories as the carriage passes through them.

Hemmingway’s short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and Emily Dickinson’s poems, “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died” and “Because I could not stop for Death” all express a common belief in death being inevitable. The character of Francis in the short story experiences a change and feels as if he can conquer any task without worrying about the possibility of death. Dickinson’s poems also show a lack of concern for death as the speakers in the poems have accepted it. Both the short story and the poems express the idea that death is inevitable and something all people have to accept.

Crazy Connections

This week for class we had to read The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber by Ernest Hemingway and four different poems by Emily Dickinson. I first read the short story followed by the poems. After doing so I was amazed to see that all of the poems in their own individual ways somehow seemed to connect to this particular short story.

The first poem by Emily Dickinson was Tell all the Truth but tell it Slant. What I took away from this poem was that as long as the basic element and form of the truth is present it’s okay if the story going along with it is a little twisted, or even omitted. In the end of The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber this is exactly the route of telling the truth that is taken. In the end of this story Mrs. Macomber kills her husband. While they cannot hide the fact that he is dead, they can certainly not tell the truth about the part of how it happened. These are their exact plans as we find out that it was planned for her to kill him since Wilson asks “Why she didn’t just poison him.” Now they just have to tweak the story a little bit of how it happened, although of course it looks like the charging bull could have in fact killed him which helps their case.

The second poem was Success is Counted Sweetest. This poem describes how success is so much more joyous to those who have experienced utter failure. Since they know the worst there is, the success is a much better feeling for them. In relating to the short story Macomber is an extreme failure at first. On the first hunt of the lion he shows himself as a coward by dropping his gun and running away from the lion rather than facing it like a man. On the next trip though, he succeeds by killing some buffalo. Immediately after this event he is a changed man and rid of his fear. Had he not known the failure first this excitement and self confidence boost from the success probably would not have come so readily.

The next poem was I heard a Fly buzz –when I died. This poem describes the immaculate details that seem to be quite irrelevant that one may have when they are just about to die. The same thing happened when Francis Macomber died. The story in a whole mimics the form of this poem by describing incredible irrelevant details at certain times, especially when he is about to die. We are reading all these details about the shooting of the buffalo, then all of a sudden (just like the person in the poem) he is dead.

Finally the last poem was Because I could not stop for Death. In this poem Emily Dickinson describes her somewhat calm acceptance of death. This poem as well is very fitting to relate to the short story. Just as Emily Dickinson is ok with death so is Francis Macomber’s wife as she decides just to kill him after 11 years of marriage to leave him for the professional gunman instead.

The Truth about Life and Death

Life and death, especially death, are not subjects talked about in public. In fact, they are not even thought of in one’s own mind. They are too big of concepts for any person to dare venture in to. “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemmingway, “Success is counted sweetest”, “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died“, “Because I could not stop for Death”, and “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” by Emily Dickinson all address the issues of life and death, and how one reflects upon their life at death.
“Success is counted sweetest” is about the importance of appreciating what you have in life, while you still have it. Most people do not realize their good fortunes until they disappear. Dickinson tried to elaborate the importance of living your life and gaining full possibility while understanding that failure only makes us stronger. If someone is handed all of their triumphs, then they cannot appreciate them because they have not yet felt loss. This poem exemplifies that in life, not everyone wins, but those losses only makes for better people.
This poem relates to “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” in the sense that they are both about the harsh realities of life. This poem however, explains that people cannot handle the entire truth at one time. Dickinson suggested that it be told gradually, or on a slant. If not, people will turn away from facts in their lives and seek a better “reality” in lie.
“Because I could not stop for death” is about the harsh reality that everyone eventually dies. Even though a person might not want to pass away, or be ready to, Death will still come knocking. Most people do not think about death, as it is a vast and terrifying, but it is still a part of life. Then what people think and how they act upon laying on their death beds is also a peculiar topic. In “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died”, Dickinson hinted as to what Death is to her. The person in the poem is distracted by something tiny and insignificant, a fly. There was no reflection on their life, remorse felt, or hopes unfulfilled realized; just the buzzing fly. Death is just another part of life that should not be feared, but viewed as a new beginning.
All of these poems’ themes are demonstrated in “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”. In the short story the main character, Macomber, does not get along well with his wife Margot. They ignore each other, and put up a front towards others as to not hurt their reputation. When Margot sleeps with the professional hunter, Wilson, all hope for their relationship is gone. Like “Success is counted sweetest”, Macomber did not appreciate her as he should have, and then it was too late. Also in the story, the wife could not handle the truth of her husband’s intended death by Wilson. She knew the truth, but denied it and told Wilson to stop talking, because he was acting as though they had just murdered an animal. Also Macomber was terrified of the lion, but couldn’t even admit this to himself. This is also like the Dickinson poem “Tell the truth but tell it slant” because people really cannot handle the full truth.
The other two poems are about death, which is a constant theme in this story; death of the animals, death of relationships, and eventually death of Macomber himself. Macomber did not think about his own death, because Wilson fed him lines to keep him hunting. Therefore Macomber did not expect Margot to shoot him. In his death, other things were noticed such as the dead buffalo and the chase, much like the fly. Death is a natural part of life, and it was coming for Macomber whether he liked it or not.

Perspectives on Death

The short story “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway and the poems “Because I could not stop for Death,” “I Heard a Fly Buzz when I Died,” and “Success is Counted Sweetest,” by Emily Dickinson all share a common theme of death. In these readings, death is portrayed in different ways, whether it is instantaneous or relatively slow and perceivable.
In the short story, the husband, Francis Macomber, is shown as a coward. He is afraid of hunting big game. His wife does not respect him and also makes fun of him for it. This is shown by his wallowing in the flashback of the moment that he was terrified of the lion. Finally, Macomber comes to terms with his fear, and not only doesn’t run away, but stands his ground firmly until he kills the buffalo that was after him. Unfortunately, directly after his newfound confidence and assurance, his wife shoots him, trying to make it seem accidental. Hemmingway describes his death as instantaneous except for the fraction of the second that he feels the searing sensation of the bullet entering his head. The whole while, he was worrying about being killed by and animal, and it ended up to be his wife that killed him. This puts a feel of futility on all of Macomber’s efforts and gives delivers an odd and instantaneous perception pertaining to life and death.
In Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” she describes the journey from life to death. She shows how the narrator was able to go through a journey before she died, passing by different stages of life. She went from children “stroving” at recess, to a setting sun, which signifies the end of her life. Through Dickinson’s slow description of death, she portrays death as a peaceful experience.
In Dickinson’s poem, “I heard a fly buzz when I died,” she mentions a fly in the first stanza in a way that makes it seem somewhat insignificant. She then describes the death of the narrator as completely still and motionless saying, “The stillness round my form/ Was like the stillness in the air.” This strengthens the significance of the fly, showing that it is the only thing that isn’t motionless in the scene. By the end of the poem, the fly becomes a gruesome focus of the person dying, being the last thing to come between the dying narrator and the light of life. By describing in such vivid detail, Emily Dickinson shows how something that is as unimportant as a fly could become the final sight of someone’s life.
In the last poem of the reading, “Success is Counted Sweetest,” Emily Dickinson discusses the relativity of success. She says that success to those who are successful often is not as sweet as it is to those who fail. She argues that the person who can define success is not the one who achieves it, but is the one who doesn’t. In her final stanza, she says that no one can define success in such an absolute way as well as someone who is dying. It is only through death, which signifies utter failure, that someone can truly understand success.

What is Success?

Emily Dickinson delved into deep thought in the poem “Success is Counted Sweetest.” The term success is examined from a context in which it is not usually looked at. After reading this poem, broader, yet important questions come to mind: what is success and how is it measured? Dickinson’s poem gives great insight into these two questions.

“Success is counted sweetest/By those who ne’er succeed.” This line seems so counterintuitive if you read it just once. The speaker is saying that one who never succeeds knows best what success really is. To me, this very line could be translated directly into the old cliché that “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Success is something that winners never understand. Only the one who looses understands what is it to succeed—simply because they don’t succeed. Those who loose understand it best because it is something that is missing, and the speaker is asserting that you understand what something is best when you don’t have it. The speaker says, “To comprehend a nectar/Requires sorest need.” To understand success, one must not have it at a certain point.

So what really is success and how is it measured? Success can mean many things to many different people. My answer would be that success cannot be measured by the amount of money one has, the car a person drives, the school they go to, or the clothes they wear—success is so much deeper than that; it’s achievement, happiness, and comfort. Achievement in all that you do, happiness in your life and surroundings, and comfort in where you are, where you have been, and where you want to go. That’s what success is all about. I would take achievement, happiness, and comfort over any material thing any day—because in the end, material things are just that, they are just things. How success is measured is buried in the definition. It’s measured by where we want to be in our own lives. That makes success a very broad term, and gives it a different meaning to every individual.

We should all obviously aim for success. But first, each person much dig deep to find out what success really means to them. For some, it may be about making a million dollars a year and having nice things, for others it may simply be happiness. Whatever success is to that person, they must aim to achieve and maintain it.

More Than Meets The Eye

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway, and Emily Dickinson’s poems, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”, “Success is Counted Sweetest” “I heard a Fly buzz”, and “Because I could not stop for Death” each share the common themes of life, success, failure and death. Each literary work emphasizes the opportunity to succeed, but the chance of failure because of specific actions. In Hemingway’s short story, he creates the theme of having to be display qualities of bravery in order to be pleased in life. In Dickinson’s poems she explains the thought behind stretching the truth, appreciating the things in life that we should not take for granted, the final moments before death, and death perceived as a suitor. This short story and these poems are all examples of life and the possibility of death due to poor decisions.

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway is about a man named Francis Macomber who takes his wife, Margaret, into the African safari guided by a professional hunter, Robert Wilson. In the beginning of the story, Macomber is immediately confronted with a wounded lion that threatens to kill him. Margaret laughs at Macomber’s cowardice and the reader can tell that there is some tension in this relationship. That evening, Margaret sleeps with Robert Wilson and Macomber is simply disgusted. The following day, the three of them head back into the safari to hunt buffalo. The two men encounter two buffalo, which eventually charge at them. They are able to kill both of the buffalo at the last minute; however, Margaret ends up trying to help by shooting her rifle, which ends up killing Macomber. Hemingway leaves the story with a cliffhanger by letting the reader guess as to whether or not Margaret killed her husband on purpose.

“Tell all the truth but tell it slant” by Emily Dickinson is about society being unable to handle the “straight up” truth. Instead, the truth is sometimes “stretched” or “sugar-coated” in order for people to accept it. To tell the complete truth is very difficult for some people to tell or to accept. Dickinson explains, “The Truth’s superb surpriseAs Lightning to the Children eased”. To surprise someone with the truth is like a child seeing lightning for the first time and trying to explain it to him or her. Dickinson states that the truth should “slant” because it should be told little by little, not to lie.

“Success is counted Sweetest” by Emily Dickinson is about a person who really appreciates and is thankful for their successes in life. The loser in this poem understands the meaning of winning, more than a winner does because through his defeat and death, he does not take his blessings for granted. Dickinson explains, “Success is counted sweetest/By those who ne’er succeed.” This person comes to the realization that even though he had been blinded by his failures, he was still able to recognize his achievements in life.

“I heard a Fly buzz” by Emily Dickinson is about a painless death that is viewed as a horrific death. A fly appears in a room right before the person in the poem dies, which seems meaningless in the beginning, but becomes much more horrendous in the end. The only sounds made in the poem are the sounds of the buzzing by the fly. The person states that the fly is the last thing that the speaker experiences before his death. Dickinson explains, “For that last onset, when the king/Be witnessed in his power.” The speaker is stating that right before he dies and enters heaven, he hears the buzzing of this fly and his own interpretation.

“Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson is about viewing death as a gentlemen suitor. This poem represents the cycle of life and the fact the eventually everyone will die. The word “passed” is used four times throughout this poem to not only pass by the children while they are driving, but they are passing through time into death. Dickinson explains, “I first surmised the horses’ heads/Were toward eternity.” The speaker states that eventually they are going to have to deal with this suitor because he represents death and eternity.

“The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” by Ernest Hemingway, and Emily Dickinson’s poems, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant”, “Success is Counted Sweetest” and “I heard a Fly buzz” each have positive and negative interpretations. “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, the reader can believe that Margaret killed her husband accidentally or on purpose. “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” is a poem that implies that the truth is important, but can be “stretched” in order to make it seem not as bad or good. “Success is Counted Sweetest” is a poem that involves a person who counts their blessings and successes when they are facing death. “I heard a Fly buzz” is a poem regarding the experiences of life in its final moments, which is the reason for living life each and every day as if it’s your last day. “Because I could not stop for Death” is a poem concerning the observation of death as a gentlemen suitor. Overall, each story insinuated the opportunities to succeed in life, and that small actions can influence the possibility of death.

Perception in Literature

“The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant--”, “Success is Counted Sweetest--”, “I heard a Fly buzz—when I died”, and “Because I cold not stop for Death--” all deal with perception in different ways. The authors, Hemingway and Dickinson, show how to look at characters or concepts in peculiar ways.

In “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, the reader is introduced to Francis Macomber and his wife, Margot. Francis is an apparent strong, handsome man, and claims to be a fantastic hunter. However, we find out at the start of the story that he had just ran away from a lion, proving himself to be a coward. As a reader, as soon as I read his physical description I assumed that he was going to be a courageous hero. I think Hemingway intentionally described Macomber in such a way because he wants him to be perceived in one way, but actually be the opposite. Also, Macomber’s wife, Margot, is perceived as the epitome of a trophy wife. She is described a beautiful woman who had a modeling career. However, instead of being a stereotypical or perceived version of a trophy wife, she appears as a manipulating, conniving gold-digger. As readers, we discover she has been with her husband for the money and will not leave him because she loves the luxurious lifestyle. These two characters are initially perceived to be one way, but end up being something completely different.

In “Tell all the truth but tell it slant--”, Dickinson talks about truth in an unorthodox way. Usually truth is thought of as a good thing, as stated in the proverb: honesty is the best policy. However, Dickinson is claiming that we should reveal truth slowly, because some people may not be able to understand the whole truth initially. I think this makes sense because if someone is caught in a lie, they most likely won’t outright admit they lied, but rather, gradually get into a conversation and admit it almost under their breath. Also, maybe this is a stretch, but I think Dickinson could be referring to God in this poem. God is referred to in the Bible as the way, the truth and the life. Perhaps Dickinson is saying, in this sense, that someone shouldn’t force Christianity on other people, but instead show them gradual things over time. I think Dickinson wrote this poem in this way because she wanted her audience to perceive it in the ways that they want to choose.

In “Success is counted sweetest--” it reminds me of that Counting Crow’s song, “Yellow Taxi.” This song claims that you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone and I think this goes back to this poem pretty well. The speaker in this poem is essentially saying that those who have success don’t realize what they have, and that those who are unsuccessful understand it better. Dickinson gives the example that those who lost the battle can define what victory is better than those who won. However, most people would perceive that the winners would be able to say what victory is, since they achieved it. I think it’s a very interesting concept, almost like a Catch-22, that even if you do finally have something, you won’t be able to understand what you have. I think this also can be applied to negative things, such as poverty. I have never in my life been in a position where I was not sure where I was going to sleep that night, or where my next meal would come from. I am sure, though, that people who have been in that situation are able to define warmth, shelter, and meals better than I ever could.

In “I heard a fly buzz when I died”, it shows that even something as monumental as death can be distracted by small things, like a fly. I thought it was so interesting that someone who is lying on her deathbed is distracted by something as trivial as a fly. Since the speaker knows she is dying, the logical thing to do would be to spend time with her loved ones and do things that matter. However, she is distracted by a fly and allows herself to contemplate about the fly. I personally perceive death as something that is terrifying and looming in people’s lives. However, the speaker makes death seem like something completely insignificant. There are lines that talk about how she signed her stuff away, but the speaker is mostly interested in the fly. I personally don’t understand why someone would be so interested in a fly on his or her deathbed, but I guess there are some people like that in the world.

Again in “Because I could not stop for Death--” Dickinson makes death be perceived in a strange way. She compares death to a suitor, who’s taking her on a carriage ride. The carriage ride, is ultimately a glimpse of her life and the memories she’s had throughout it. It seems like this ride is similar to how supposedly when you die your life flashes through your eyes. I think it is interesting that she tries to make death so casual, both in this poem and in her other poem, it almost shows how morbid she is in accepting death so freely. Perceiving death in this way, it shows that death doesn't necessarily have to be so serious.

Expected Versus Reality

“The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, “I heard a Fly buzz- when I died”, “Success is counted sweetest”, “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”, and “Because I could not stop for Death” share a common theme in that the expected or accepted is often at odds with reality. By making this difference apparent the authors are able to place a stronger emphasis on their work’s meaning as well as demonstrate that two contrary ideas can work together. By painting a brave man as a coward, a respectable death as dirty, a hard fought win as meaningless, a truth as a lie, and death as a new beginning the authors were able to emphasize the importance of their work in the context of its opposite. The short story and poems share the theme of the expected being different from the truth and all use this concept to further their meanings.

In Hemingway’s short story “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber”, the belief that Francis is a coward runs contrary to the truth about his real disposition and reveals something about bravery itself. When faced with an intense and frightening situation, Macomber fled from danger. By running from the lion Francis painted a picture of himself as a coward. However, Macomber’s later stance in front of the charging bull and his refusal to sway demonstrates his real courage. As the Somali proverb states, “a brave man is always frightened three times by a lion” (490). Just because Francis appeared to be a coward once does not mean that he is forever doomed to that name. His later bravery proves that his accepted disposition is completely different from his actual identity. By using this device Hemingway was able to point out that bravery is not something always present but rather something that develops over time. While some grow into maturity early, others come of age later in life and only through hard trials. The common theme of accepted ideas being contrary to reality is present in “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber” and leads to the belief that bravery is something that develops rather than being issued at birth.

Emily Dickinson’s “I heard a Fly buzz- when I died” uses the concept of expected versus reality to discuss the afterlife. Dickinson’s poem is set on the speaker’s deathbed and has her surrounded by loved ones waiting for her final breath. While all present expect “the King” (line 7) to soon arrive to take her soul to heaven, the only extra presence in the room is a buzzing fly. The expected arrival of God to take the speaker’s soul away clashes with the reality of a mere fly buzzing through the air. By using the concept of the expected versus reality Dickinson is able to question whether an afterlife exists. While those present believe that something will come after, the speaker only sees a fly before her “Windows failed” (line 15). By choosing to describe a buzzing insect in her final seconds rather than the coming of the Kingdom the speaker is questioning the existence of an afterlife as it seems like nothing is happening. By not using traditional death and afterlife imagery despite the peaceful demise, Dickinson is alluding to the thought that we may be just as insignificant as a fly. The concept that the expected outcome is different from reality strengthens the idea that our earthly life is not followed by an afterlife.

Dickinson’s poem “Success is counted sweetest” uses the idea of accepted versus reality to comment on what success means. In the poem the people celebrating a hard-fought win are those who had contributed no effort in the scheme of things. However, the soldier dying on the field is the one who is capable of comprehending the effort and price of that victory, his own life. Despite his sacrifice he is removed from the festivities of victory and is left to die within earshot of those celebrating. By showing those celebrating the win as those who actually had no part in it Dickinson is able to comment on the meaning of victory. While some gave all they had, others gave nothing and still claimed success. By juxtaposing the two groups Dickinson is able to ask what success means, whether it is meant to be acquired through the work of others or if it is supposed to be sought after but never found. By contrasting the two groups Dickinson is able to consider the meaning of success and how it relates to different people.

In “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”, Dickinson questions the value of strong truths through contrasting the accepted value of truth over all with the reality that sometimes the facts are too strong. While the full truth is the traditionally accepted best answer, Dickinson suggests telling the truth in a gradual buildup rather than all at once. However, if this policy of building up to the truth were to be followed that would mean the truth is not said explicitly. By using the implicit truth the door to false words is opened. This concept questions the value of white lies and whether they may be counted as the truth. By stating that one should tell the truth but tell it on a slant Dickinson is advocating the idea of finding the truth through an indirect process. While this process may not be the accepted belief, it may be the best in particular situations. By contrasting the accepted idea of truth over all with the reality that the truth is best served on a slant Dickinson is able to reconsider the value of truth.

Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” challenges the traditional view of death in a process that results in a new look on the end of life. While the accepted view of death is one of a cold, hooded figure in black carrying a scythe, Dickinson’s version is polite, kind, and patient. In addition to the new likeness of Death, marriage imagery is also introduced. The idea of death courting the speaker as she wears a wedding gown leads to a different perspective on the process of dying. Rather than death signifying the elimination of a person, Dickinson compares death to a new beginning. The use of this imagery alludes to the idea that death is not necessarily something to fear but may actually be something both welcoming and kind. The device of using expected versus reality is able to focus on the misunderstanding surrounding death and question its intention. By juxtaposing the expected with reality Dickinson is able to question what death is like and arrives at her own, favorable interpretation.

The works by Hemingway and Dickinson used the idea of contrasting the accepted with reality in order to bring out a deeper meaning within the short story and poems. Whether defining the meaning of bravery, challenging the idea of an afterlife, questioning the reality of success, redefining the truth, or examining death the authors were able to find greater meaning through the use of contrasting ideas. The device of comparing the accepted or expected with reality was able to add meaning to the focus of the works for both Hemingway and Dickinson.