Emily Dickinson Presents Suffering
After great pain a formal feeling comes’ and ‘I felt a funeral in my brain’ and ‘There’s a certain slant of light’- Throughout Dickinson’s poem ‘After great pain a formal feeling comes’ she attempts to communicate to the reader the nature of the suffering she is encountering that comes ‘after great pain’. This first line is the only abstract statement throughout the poem, to express that this is obviously not a physical pain.
She refers to the physical nerves in her body ‘sit ceremonious like tombs’ a comparison that symbolises the effects of this suffering, a tomb being associated with qualities related to the dead. These qualities are stillness and formality, which reflect the physical numbness she is experiencing as a consequence. This sense of numbness is confirmed throughout the poem when mechanical feet are described abstractly walking in a ‘wooden way’ to reflect that they now have no regard for where they land, while indicating that this path they take is conceptual as it is physical.
Emily Dickinson Presents Suffering Essay Example
This comparison between the physical and mental components of suffering is intertwined within Dickinson’s poem ‘I felt a funeral in my brain’ when her dramatization of mental anguish, leads to a metaphorical drop. This results in the narrator’s physical form ‘finished knowing’ and sinking into a protective numbness. This concept is also explored within ‘Theres a certain slant of slight’ which Dickenson used as a metaphor for tuberculosis, in a time in her life when many of the people surrounding her fell victim to the disease, meaning without todays knowledge of germ theory, it would result in death.
Dickenson throughout the poem moves from descriptions of ‘cathedral tunes’ to ‘internal difference’ to form a contrast between the external and internal elements surrounding life. This is also to reflect the nature of the illness tuberculosis, in which there were no physical signs of pain but instead metaphorical scarring that changed the victim completely ‘internally’. Dickenson also explores the theme of suffering as being a complete state of mind throughout ‘After great pain a formal feeling comes’ a poem centred on the feelings within, while lacking persona or ritual seen in her other poems.
She reflects this through her personification of various parts of the body such as the ‘nerves’ ‘heart’ and ‘feet’ a generalisation that allows the reader to assume this pain has to be internal and beyond her physical form. This theme is also within ‘I felt a funeral in my brain’ when Dickenson describes a ‘service and a ‘box’ to vaguely relate this pain to the actions performed at a funeral. However Dickenson uses the metaphor ‘creak across my soul’ which is not typically associated with this ceremony to reflect the internal trance like state the narrator has entered as a result of this pain.
This then causes her to enter a place of ‘wrecked, solitary’ when a ‘plank in reason, broke’ which forces the narrator to become a lifeless form, incapable of perceiving the external factors surrounding her. Dickinson also presents the speaker being an object within ‘I Felt a funeral in my brain’ while portraying her as submissive to this form of suffering. This is evident when she recalls ‘then I heard them life a box, And creak across my soul’ to indicate a lack of control those surrounding the dying face when entering the numerous stages of suffering once the loved one has passed.
This theme is also explored within ‘Theres a certain slant of light’ when Dickinson describes a ‘Heavenly hurt it gives us’ to suggest this affliction is in the form of a religious experience, that is being forced onto the narrator. This reflects Dickinson’s confusion over her transcendentalist views through her use of the word ‘light’ as a metaphor for tuberculosis, while appearing to blame God for this forceful suffering. In Dickinson’s poem ‘I felt a funeral in my brain’ the whole psychological drama is reflected in the form of a funeral service, however the cause of this intense suffering is never revealed throughout any of her poems.
In the fourth stanza of this poem the phrase ‘breaking through’ is used to display mental phenomena, which usually refers to something becoming clear or the narrator may be gaining insight that was hidden to her in the past, which is the outcome of this suffering. The use of repetition when describing the ‘treading, treading’ of the mourners reinforces this idea, becoming a reflection of the self-turmoil the narrator experienced before reaching this understanding.
However the coffin like ‘box’ described by Dickenson symbolises the death of rationality and the narrator entering a state close to madness. This loss of self typically comes when ones relationship with people and nature becomes broken, which could be the cause of Dickinson’s personal suffering. The poems regular rhythm and iambic meter being opposed by words such as ‘beating- beating’ also reinforce this idea, adding a rocking quality that could reflect the instability of the narrator’s sanity.
Throughout Dickinson’s poem ‘A certain slant of light’ she also fails to reveal the cause of this suffering consuming her, however she displays the main characteristic of this pain as being oppressive. Her use of words throughout such as ‘oppresses’ ‘weight’ and ‘hurt’ all display this aspect, while her description of the ‘weight of the cathedral tunes’ reflect that her state of mind is causing her to interpret even her external surroundings as oppressive.
This communicates to the reader the possibility that this suffering may be Dickinson’s personal response to the realisation into the fact of death. This idea is reinforced in stanza four when she describes ‘Shadows hold their breath’ which is suggestive of the stillness associated with death, in a time when Dickinson’s life was centred on the threat of disease caused by the Tuberculosis epidemic that spread throughout Europe.