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.