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Analysis and comments on I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died by Emily Dickinson

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Comment 24 of 624, added on April 22nd, 2006 at 5:51 PM.

There have been several interpretations presented so far throughout these
comments, and I don't have anything original, unfortunately. I think it's
clear that the person telling the story of her death has known for some
time that she will be dying. "I willed my keepsakes, signed away / What
portion of me I / Could make assignable" The rest of it is up to the
interpretation of the reader. I interpreted the stillness she talks about
in the second line as the precise moment she stopped living. At this
moment, she is (ideally) supposed to cross over to eternal life with God in
heaven. She sees the light, but then she sees this fly was suddenly
"interposed" between "the light and [her]." As a few people have already
commented, Beelzebub is known as the lord of the flies and bible references
associate him with the devil. I interpreted the appearance of the fly as
her not being pure enough to make it to heaven. Instead, the fly (a symbol
for the devil) found her on her deathbed and took her soul with him into
the darkness ("and then / I could not see"). It seems that whatever sin
she had committed that condemned her to hell was relatively insignificant
because she was able to see the light before she sunk into darkness. I
think God was willing to forgiver her and receive her in heaven, but since
she was a sinner and technically belonged to the devil, he greedily
snatched her soul before she was able to enter heaven. I'm not positive on
this, but I think Emily Dickinson was not really committed to a religion
and was very curious about the possibility of heaven and hell, and I think
she expressed this in her work. Another poem of similar content is
"Because I Could not Stop for Death." It, too, is about dying and the

Amanda from United States
Comment 23 of 624, added on April 17th, 2006 at 2:12 AM.

This poem was around the time when it was common to believe in seeing
visions of God or Christ when at death. but instead of seeing God, the
speaker only sees a fly, which is a household pest and therefore is
negative. so maybe this poem could also be about expectations?

Elizabeth from China
Comment 22 of 624, added on April 5th, 2006 at 9:12 AM.

I don't see how this poem shows that she challenges the idea of the
existence of God, Rachel.

I appreciate how Dickinson used the 1st person narration to bring the
reader the feel of the poem, as if the reader him/herself is dying.

Whether it is literal or not, to me, doesn't matter, the point is to enjoy
it, since everyone's view of art might be slightly different, there is no
correct way of interpreting any poem.

As to how Dickinson would have interpreted the poem...only she herself

SWH from China
Comment 21 of 624, added on January 28th, 2006 at 10:05 AM.

I think Mary Gunderson said it BEST! I love it - I've always just had the
simplified view of the fly interfering with the dying "Emily" not being
able to see the "King" but her statement really opens my eyes. Thank you,

Comment 20 of 624, added on January 13th, 2006 at 12:02 AM.

The fly represents the presence of death. THe buzz is the constant
annoyance of how death is near by. She some how knows she will die. The
eyes wrung dry means that everyone has mourned more than enough tears for
her. and she is waiting for the "king" god to appear when she dies. You can
see this because the Last- last breath, onset- beginning- beginning of new
life with god. she has willed her keepsakes- basically signed everything of
value to people around her. The fly suddenly appears- death is closer, it
is between the light and me- the fly is waiting for her to follow the
"light" and the windows failed- the storm had its last heave and her vision
was depleted for she died then and there.

Daniel from United States
Comment 19 of 624, added on November 27th, 2005 at 1:16 PM.

I agree that she is definately literally talking about death in this poem,
and she says somethign about giving away what she owned, and i think she
was kind of talking about her will, and giving the things she owned away
before she died. As for the fly, i believe that is what separated her from
heaven..and the room was quiet except for the buzzing, because the fly was
the thing that was the doubt on whether she could be pure enough to go to
heaven or not. I don't know is this is actually what she means, but it is
just a thought.

Jill from Canada
Comment 18 of 624, added on November 21st, 2005 at 8:33 AM.

Conal, if you are going to copy and paste please give credit to the author.

Comment 17 of 624, added on November 19th, 2005 at 3:00 PM.

I heard a fly the buzz is not really questioning what happens at death nor
does it question whether there is eternal life after death. The facts of
nature show that the body does decay after death; therefore, Ms. Dickinson
uses the fly. The spiritual being no longer needs the human body so there
is no conflict. I think this is simply a reflection on the death process
and customs associated with death of the physical body.

Mary Gunderson from United States
Comment 16 of 624, added on October 14th, 2005 at 9:57 AM.

I think the verse about the "waiting for the king" is rather meant to be
ironic because all the people around her want to witness God in the moment
of death, but all what they see and hear is a fly.
It is also rather sad because the relatioves have not come to support the
dying person but for egoistic reasons to make a spiritual experience.
Thus, I think, Dickinson deconstructs the whole image of relatives waiting
at a death bed. They are not there because of their love to the dying
person but to fulfil their own desires. however, this is denied to them.
Instead of God they see an ordinary fly.

red hairy from Belgium
Comment 15 of 624, added on September 29th, 2005 at 11:24 AM.

Wow! This is a really deep conversation, but I don't think this poem is
really about literal death. I felt that the poem was really a sustained
metaphor between marriage and death. The fly is a warning of what is to
come. The King is going to be her husband. The giving away of keepsakes is
a dowery or marriage presents.

gloria from United States

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Information about I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 465. I heard a Fly buzz -- when I died
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 97643 times

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