Many times poets use their poetry to express their inner feelings. Emily Dickinson is one of those poets; in her poem, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died,” she uses figurative language to express her thoughts about death.
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born December 20, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. She studied at the Amherst Academy for seven years and for a short time, during her teenage years she studied at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. After Mount Holyoke she returned to her family home and there she remained and lived a reclusive life until her death on May 15, 1886. She was famous for wearing white; and she had a long-distance relationship with her friends through letters. Few poets have written as many poems as Emily Dickinson; most of Miss Dickinson’s work was published posthumously. One who is not acquainted with Emily Dickinson’s and her writings would immediately call her a morbid person; especially after finding out that she spends most of her adult life as a recluse. Emily had a religious upbringing and her home was right next to a cemetery; these two factors causes her to often wonder about the afterlife; and she expresses her musings in her poetry. In “I heard a fly buzz, when I died,” the first line of poem number 591, she demonstrates her own unique form of writing, she begins with a paradox A dead person cannot hear however, as the poem continues one will discover that the narrator is not yet dead but preparing for death. Ordinarily people do not hear the buzzing of a fly because the buzzing is drowned out by the other noises in their environment. In the second line she implies that she is not alone, “The stillness round my form” suggests that other people are there and they are aware that she is dying. She uses a simile to compare the stillness in the room and the “haves of storm” are the silence between each breath or it could mean that the crying has taken an intermission. This first stanza shows a room with people who have accepted eminent death.
The second stanza continues with the death watch, and the watchers have already cried. Literally they have no tears left; anybody who has lost a loved one understands this, one can become exhausted from crying, meaning that they will not cry again, “And breaths were gathering sure.” Line seven gives power to death and uses the word “king” as a symbol of its majesty. It could also mean that the new world, life after death, where the king reigns is a royal place where one can go only after death. Line eight ends the stanza by saying that upon the arrival of death, the crying will start again. It is like being in the eye of a storm, the head has passed and there is an eerie calm waiting for the tail to come.
It is the norm that people leave something for their loved ones when they leave this world. In the third stanza “I will my keepsakes, signed away;” the dying person has made a will and has given away personal things that were once precious to her. This person has no desire to struggle with death; it is accepted and whatever possession he or she has, have been signed away in a will. “In an atmosphere of outward quiet and inner calm, the dying person collectedly proceeds to bequeath his or her worldly possessions, and while engaged in this activity of "willing," finds his attention withdrawn by a fly's buzzing” (Gerhard Friedrich, n.d.). This person is going on a journey to a place where earthly possessions are worth nothing. The fly appears again it is becoming the theme of the poem; it is also a symbol of death, rot, and stench.
As Dickinson starts the fourth stanza she alludes to her uncertainty where one goes after death. The word “blue” has a double meaning, it could Kristy Herronmean sad and it could mean that the fly cast a shadow between the dying person and the guiding light to the other world. According to Kristy Herron “Description of the fly changes in stanza [sic] thirteen as the narrator states, ‘With Blue- uncertain stumbling Buzz-,’ thus explaining the fly is no ordinary house fly but a metaphorical figure representing death. Writers often associate flies with death and decay“ (2008). Dickinson does not really mean “Windows” windows are a symbol for eyes; finally she is dead she has closed her eyes. How does she see after her eyes are closed? Going to the new world one does not need mortal eyes, and to get there the mortal eyes must be closed; before getting to the celestial city one must die first. The narrator is also speaking as one who has already dead and if one is dead he or she cannot communicate with life. “How can a dead woman be speaking? If the dead woman can still speak, does this mean that dying is perpetual and continuous? Or is immortality a state of consciousness in an eternal present?” (web). This is a question that has no right answer, the way Emily Dickinson writes one is never quite sure of her meaning and that is the beauty of her work the reader never comes to a right or wrong conclusion.
Emily Dickinson was a complicated lady who lived as a recluse; and “I heard a fly buzzing, when I die” is definitely an expression of her beliefs; it is uncanny that she never knew how much her work impact the literally world. Most of her poems were written to entertain only herself, posthumously her poems are legendary.
Friedrich, Gerhard. “On “I Heard a fly Buzzing, When I Die.” web. 26 Sept, 2013
Herron, Kristy. (2008) “I Heard a fly Buzzing, When I Die.” Web. 26 Sept. 2013
“I Heard a fky Buzzing, When I Die.” Web. 26 Sept. 2013