The Enigma of Death – An Insight into Dickinson

The Enigma of Death – An Insight into Dickinson’s Portrayal of Death – “Pale Death with impartial tread beats at the poor man’s cottage door and at the palaces of kings.” Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65-8 B.C.) Death eventually comes to everyone, and yet it is a phenomenon shrouded in mystery. Scholars and scientists try to understand it, philosophers pose theories and conclusions about it, artists try to capture it between streaks of paint across a canvas, while poets like Emily Dickinson explore it’s meaning and influence through verse. Death is like an outward rush into the unknown where there is nothing recognizable and nothing to cling to. The unknown is always feared, and since nothing is known about death or an afterlife, people fear it. What Dickinson’s poetry delves into is the undeniable power of death to detach one from life and the pain and sorrow that accompanies it like a dark cloud above it’s head. In There’s a Certain Slant of Light , Dickinson uses nature as the backdrop for her description of death, and the elements to describe the silent pain that it brings with it. The poem appears to create some sort of setting for the reader in order to portray this. The sight of a funeral procession entering a cemetery is probably an apt description of this setting. The slant of light is used to portray a heavenly beam that falls on the earth and brings a gloomy feeling with it. It could be the finger of God beckoning to the deceased to come to the heavenly abode or a divine path showing him the road to heaven. However, the light possesses a sort of weightiness: “That oppresses, like the Heft / Of Cathedral Tunes-“. This heaviness in the light may refer to the undecipherable feelings that one has, when you lose someone close to you. The second and third stanzas of the poem bring out the true profundity of these mixed emotions. “Furthermore, both light and air are portrayed as symbolic of God, so that they become ag…

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