There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House,

There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House,
As lately as Today —
I know it, by the numb look
Such Houses have — alway —

The Neighbors rustle in and out —
The Doctor — drives away —
A Window opens like a Pod —
Abrupt — mechanically —

Somebody flings a Mattress out —
The Children hurry by —
They wonder if it died — on that —
I used to — when a Boy —

The Minister — goes stiffly in —
As if the House were His —
And He owned all the Mourners — now —
And little Boys — besides —

And then the Milliner — and the Man
Of the Appalling Trade —
To take the measure of the House —
There’ll be that Dark Parade —

Of Tassels — and of Coaches — soon —
It’s easy as a Sign —
The Intuition of the News —
In just a Country Town —

Analysis, meaning and summary of Emily Dickinson's poem There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House,


  1. Louise says:

    The effect this piece of word choice creates is that the word “it” is very cold, it is like they do not care who “it” was and the person that has died has no dignity left, they are just “it”. The imagery technique used here is like the exact opposite of personification because by calling this person “it” they are being stripped from their identity, it makes them sound like and object.

  2. Jo says:

    i think that they refer to it as an ‘it’ because in the stanza before, the window opens up ‘abruptly, mechanically’ as if to let the spirit travel to heaven. they then refer to the body as an ‘it’ because the spirit has left.

  3. yaya says:

    Why is the mattress being thrown out from the window? What is the significance of it? I know it indicates someone has died, but is it some kind of ritual or tradition?

  4. IMMANUEL says:

    I think the poem deals with how death affects daily life in a country town as opposed to death occurring in a city. People hardly notice death taking place in their neighbourhood in a city because of the busy lives they lead. But in a town it is easily noticable and not only that neighbours pour in to pay their last respects and participate in the ceremonies associated with burial.Notice that the poem opens with the news of the death taking place that day and how the house takes on a ‘numb look’ and the poems closes with the idea that death taking place in a country town is ‘easy as a sign’, that people intuitively come to know about it as soon as it takes place. The implied contrast is to death occurring in a city, where neighbours may not even come to know about a death in the neighbourhood. Also, the use of ‘It’ to denote the dead person is worth commenting upon. I think from a young person’s point of view old people look so different from themselves and young adults that they seem to be not human beings, but an ‘it’. The boys may have seen this old person occasionally outside his home and they may have studied with curiosity his withered hands, stooping form and croaking voice. It would have been difficult for them to imagine him young, healthy and good looking as themselves once upon a time. So, he is just an ‘it’ for them.

  5. Mohd Hafiz says:

    Maylee>> The word ‘house’ in line 19 would probably suit the imagery of a coffin. From the previous lines we can see that the ‘man of the appalling trade’ (which probably be the undertaker) taking measures of the ‘house’.

    This poem is generally about a view from a neighbour opposite the house (obviously from the title). I agree with what kyle from US has posted. The attitude of the persona towards the whole situation is like a reflection of his past (when he was a child).

  6. maylee says:

    the word ‘house’ in line 19 refers to?

  7. Anonymous says:

    its a hard poem to read. i have to read it for english. can someone please help me by explaining it?

  8. kylie says:

    I think that all Emily is saying is that basically, people are conditioned to deal with death from a young age because death has visible signs even when the actual “death” itself isn’t apparent. Because of this, much of the emotional aspects of death are non-existant in the onlookers of the scene because they have been desensitized to the whole concept of death. The use of “it” in line 11 (they wonder if it died on that-) completely depersonalizes the persons death, and thus, the children who are wondering about “it” show no emotion towards the situation, but rather grimace at the thought of the dead body. Yet, the speaker states “i used to when a boy” showing that this non-sentimental attitude towards death is innate in children. In a nutshell, the theme is that the scene of death has visible signs even when a body is lacking, and beginning at a young age we pick up on the signs and thus become conditioned to deal with death.

  9. xxbloodyxwristxx says:

    *****Quote******I understand the overall meaning of the poem and that she is trying to show the different reactions of various characters to death, but the last stanza throws me off, as does the mention of the “dark parade”

    matt from United States ******Quote*****

    To matt a dark parade would be like a funeral procession we today have

  10. Sathappan says:

    Hahaha. You humor me. I am scared of you, Mr. I’m-Gonna-Kill-You-Then-Myself-Man. How are you going to hunt me down? I honestly don’t think that an internet Comment Board is the right place to look for advice on whether or not to kill yourself. How about a psychiatrist? I’m sure TIMMY-C would be willing to give you a ride, because his car goes really fast, and everything. God doesn’t love you.

  11. TIMMY-C says:

    Karlton, i will help you in your quest to find death, after i help you find Sathappan and Christ. i love my car. it goes so fast.

  12. karlton says:

    I am going to hunt you down and find you christ and sathappan, i dont appreciate what you said at all. You mock the status of my life and tempt me to kill my own self. You two are evil people. I will kill you.

    • Mahsa says:

      I personally loveeee her style of writing..You know the dashes, capitalisation,..
      But what I found the most interesting was the line ” There’ll be that Dark Parade “.
      It’s separated from the other lines. I think she’s drawing a conclusion based on the preceding signs. It’s like she’s putting an emphasis on the fact that there will be a funeral soon. what do you think guys?

  13. Sathappan says:

    Well done, Karlton! I don’t care about you either! Maybe I’ll see you in the after life, except you might be in hell! Jolly good work! Keep it up! Nooses are great!

  14. Christ says:

    Yea Karlton, youre right. Death is your only option. Go for it.

  15. Elle says:

    I love her work!!

  16. matt says:

    I understand the overall meaning of the poem and that she is trying to show the different reactions of various characters to death, but the last stanza throws me off, as does the mention of the “dark parade”

  17. Ellie says:

    It is to be remembered of Dickinson that she uses many voices, in this poem in particular it is a grown mans recollection of death ‘They wonder if it died- on that-/ I used to when a Boy-‘ the trivilising by calling the dead body ‘it’ encompasses the feeling of the poem. The mudane realities of death, such as taking ‘measures of the House’ for a coffin and making of the hats for the funaral, is far from the mystical Interpretation of her other works. Dickinson critises the minister who ‘goes stiffly in-/ As if the House were His-‘ and the monopolising he and the other proffesions do with death. There is a natural morbid curiosity, as the news is spread around the town. Here death taken down to its every day realities.
    In response to previous comments I recommend a more thorough reading of both this poem and Dickison’s collective works. Her preoccupation with death and the after life stems not from continuous suicidal tendancies, but the strick Calvinistic enviroment in which she lived. The split between the elect and a damned caused Dickinson to question her own thoughts and believes. It is true that Dickinson’s profound, but ordinary, desciptions of pain and loss are difficult to reproduce, hence the appreciation shown by any like minded sufferer. i refer such an appreciator to ‘ i shall keep singing’ and suggest they try to emulate qualities suggested in ‘Her Losses make our Gains ashamed’ (Dickinson’s homage to George Elliot’) I hope this shall make for more intellectual discussion of Dickinson’s works.

  18. Anon says:

    Karlton, I don’t know who you are but I hope you are ok. Death is never the only option and, there is always a chance that things will get better.

  19. karlton says:

    I have a lot of pain and misery in my life. The crying continues, locking in my room, the agony to hang myself. I can’t continue my life. Nobody cares about me. People just want to hate me. I am a nobody. Just like Emily Dickinson, i feel left alone. Death is my only option.

  20. erika says:

    I dont really understand this trying to analyze it but its just not my thing.can anyone tell me the theme of this poem besides just..death?

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