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Analysis and comments on A narrow Fellow in the Grass by Emily Dickinson

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Comment 35 of 155, added on December 7th, 2009 at 9:00 PM.
The analysis of readers

After reading some of the comments, I decided to say something. Emily
Dickinson wrote poems in certain categories. For her first volume,
Higginson grouped them together as Life, Love (Marriage), Nature, Time, and
Eternity (Immortality). She had a deep seated love of nature, especially
her garden and the valleys of Connecticut. Her appreciation of nature grew
even stronger under the guidance of Ben Newton. This poem represents, to
me, one of her nature poems, about one of the few aspects of nature she
feared: a snake.

A few areas I most see this in are as follows.

In the line "The Grass divides as with a comb" I picture the snake
slithering through a field. I have seen this in real life, and it does part
the grass neatly.

In lines 9 and 10, where Dickinson mentions a "Boggy acre" and a "floor too
cool for corn" she describes popular resting places for a snake.

In the line where she mentions a "whiplash unbraiding in the sun", the
snake is coiled and resting. When the narrator reaches to fetch it, the
snake uncoils and slithers away.

As for the last stanza, the narrator is expressing their fear of the snake.
When you are afraid of something, do you not feel a certain tightening in
your chest, or a chill in your bones?

English Major from United States
Comment 34 of 155, added on December 5th, 2009 at 11:12 AM.
The Snake

I have a question: you guys keep saying we're "ruining a good poem" by
"making it about sex." Why is the poem bad just because it's about sex? Is
there a problem with sexuality? I don't think we're the ones being

Teralyn Pilgrim from United States
Comment 33 of 155, added on December 5th, 2009 at 3:59 AM.

From what I can gather, none of Dickenson's poems are literal: she commonly
uses a symbol to represent something else. I've read that she also commonly
writes about genitalia and uses phallic symbolism often. The "snake" in
this poem doesn't even act like a snake. It does things in the poem that
can really only describe a penis. Example: "When, stooping to secure it, It
wrinkled, and was gone." The tighter breathing and zero and to bone makes
more sense from a sexual standpoint than a natural one, especially since
there are plenty of animals more dangerous than a snake. Although I haven't
read much of her stuff personally, I've read that Dickenson is deep and
morbid... definitely not someone who would write about a real snake.

Teralyn Pilgrim from United States
Comment 32 of 155, added on October 19th, 2008 at 5:21 AM.

just took the poem the way it is.over interpretation might cause ambiguity
in it.... it is just a snake. a vivid picture of a snake, and the man's
reaction to it. it has a good structure. you can observe the s-sounding
words which is like a representation of snake's hissing sound.

kagami from Philippines
Comment 31 of 155, added on June 11th, 2008 at 11:13 AM.

I wrote a paper on the poem in summer school many years ago . I was
perplexed by the phrase "zero at the bone " which I interpreted as
stone-cold fear .Recently I was shocked to read in the newspaper the
teacher who taught the poem , a very sedate spinster , , was murdered by
her brother-in-law .

chas calz from Canada
Comment 30 of 155, added on March 28th, 2008 at 5:08 PM.

zero to the bone doesn't mean goosebumps. it means frozen fear, not
necessarily the physical goosebumps.

hl from United States
Comment 29 of 155, added on May 14th, 2007 at 5:03 PM.

The snake. Whenever you meet one unexpectedly, you experience a flight or
fight response. The zero at the bone refers to goosebumps. Lighten up

Patricia George from United States
Comment 28 of 155, added on April 19th, 2007 at 10:20 PM.

We looked this poem over in my English class and all of us students thought
it was a snake, but my teacher thought it was an African American slave...

Katrina from United States
Comment 27 of 155, added on March 30th, 2007 at 1:36 PM.

I am so confused i can see the snake but what is she talking bout when she
says zero at the bone? Last stanza. I don't know but i have to analize this
poem so i need help. Keep up with the comments so that i can get some
ideas! But i do see the sexuality to it

Fabiana from United States
Comment 26 of 155, added on March 28th, 2007 at 7:42 AM.

I think she is talking about a sneaky kind of person -- one who can't be
pinned down. And who likes to startle people by sort of appearing and
disappearing. I think her last stanza is quite filled with contempt,
saying he (the snake) is tight-assed, so to speak, and has no real spine,
or has nothing real to offer. Yes, she uses the experience of seeing an
actual snake to paint this portrait. The unbraiding of the sun is like
when a snake moves through a field of golden dried grasses and this
describes how it looks; I've seen it. One thing that's always struck me
about this poem is how odd the second to the last stanza is -- it seems to
stand on its own as a proverb. (the one about feeling cordiality) but it
further emphasizes how all of nature is welcome except the snake. Sexual
or not, the snake of the bible or not, she just doesn't like sneakiness and


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Information about A narrow Fellow in the Grass

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 986. A narrow Fellow in the Grass
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 38040 times

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