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Analysis and comments on Death is a Dialogue between by Emily Dickinson

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Death is a Dialogue Between
Emily Dickenson
Emily Dickenson’s poem, Death is a Dialogue Between, is a poem about how a
spirit moves on. Dickenson begins her poem in the first two stanzas by
declaring that death is only a conversation between a spirit and its
earthly remains. This can be seen as very humorous because it is so
contradictory from Deaths typical morbid image and sets up a light humorous
mood for the rest of the poem. Dickenson begins the dialogue in line three,
by having Death tell the spirit to “dissolve” (3) into the earth with its
earthly remains. From this, we can conclude that Death is representing the
devil because he wants the spirit to go into the “Ground” (5) after death,
which can also be interpreted as hell. After that, the spirit replies by
calling Death “Sir” (3) in a humorous manner and telling death that his
trust lies with God and therefore the he won’t ever have to go to hell.
Dickenson then continues to say that death doubts the spirits reply and
argues back to try and convince the spirit again. Dickenson adds more clues
to prove that death is the devil by capitalizing Ground to emphasize its
symbolism of hell. The spirit then turns away from death and stops
listening to his arguments and leaves off for heaven, leaving only his
remains as an “Overcoat of Clay” (8).
Dickenson uses many poetic devices in her poem. The first is her use of
alliteration. By using alliteration, especially in the first stanza,
Dickenson sought to set up the silly, playful tone of the poem that could
continue throughout the rest of the poem. The next important poetic device
that Dickenson applies is her use of diction. Dickenson used the alternate
definitions of the words “Sir”(3) and “Clay”(8) to deepen the meaning in
the poem. By using the word “Sir”(3), Dickenson is able to play off of an
alternate sarcastic definition of sir to represent that even though death
may be viewed as a powerful being, the spirit doesn’t need to fear its
power because of its “Trust” with God. Another example is her use of the
word clay. By using the word “Clay”(8) Dickenson is able to convey that all
the spirit left behind was an old, ruined body, without corrupting the
poems playful style.
Emily Dickenson had many different key structural choices when writing
this poem. By choosing common meter, Dickenson was able to make great use
of the alternating unstressed and stressed syllables to give the poem a
playful tone. Dickenson also used the trimeter lines in common meter to
highlight valuable points throughout the poem. In line two, Dickenson
announces who the poem will be about; in line four, Dickenson uses the line
to highlight the presence of God and create suspense because the spirit has
denied the devil; in line 6, Dickenson uses the six syllable line to
indicate the turning point where the spirit finally defeats the devils
lure; Finally in line 8 Dickenson uses the meter to enlarge the comedy
placed on what the spirit left for the dust to dissolve and enlarge the
humorous ending. Another key form of structure that Dickenson uses is
capitalization. Because “trust” is capitalized in line 4, the reader knows
that it must have a special meaning and therefore can imply that the
“trust”(4) must be a divine trust with god. Another important capitalized
word is the word “argues” in line 5. Dickenson uses this capitalization to
emphasize the fact that even though you may have a strong divine trust with
god, the devil will argue and keep trying to lure you into his own trap.
Another structural component is Dickenson’s use of dashes to stress
important sections of the poem. In line three Dickenson begins in a dark
tone by having death command the spirit to dissolve. To intensify the
moment, Dickenson uses a dash to create a dramatic pause in order to
contrast the dark command with the sarcastic reply said by the spirit to
make the humor in the play even more comical. The final structural
component Dickenson applies is her use of the period. Dickenson only uses
the period twice, with her most important example at the end of the poem.
Dickenson uses a period as a sign of termination to show that the journey
for the spirit and its struggles against Lucifer are finally over.

Comment 7 of 15, added on January 7th, 2009 at 8:33 PM.

death commands the spirit or the body to dissolve or fade away but the body
wishes to dwell under the clay coat. i feel like spirit does not exist and
their is nothing after death. i do not know emily's religious views but
she does provoke feelings of hopelessness.

Hank the Crank from United States
Comment 6 of 15, added on October 15th, 2008 at 10:52 AM.

You have to understand, that although Emily Dickinson may be considered
against the natural understanding of christianity, this poem shows
By this poem, she examines the death of a person and their attention to
instead cast off their mortal body or the "clay" as defined in both the
bible and poem 976.
Therefore, instead of merely just dying or "disolving", the soul delivers
up the mortal being and goes onto the "trust" that it already has insued,
that being "heaven".

Mackenzie from United States

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Information about Death is a Dialogue between

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 976. Death is a Dialogue between
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 109 times

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