|Numbers refer to Poem Numbers
216. What does the first stanza suggest about the "experience"
of death. Why do you think
In both versions of the poem, how does the
second stanza differ in focus from the first? What
|258. What comparison does the first stanza make. What
is unusual or confusing about the
comparison? What image (mental picture or impression) is foremost in your mind at the
end of the first stanza? What words in the first stanza have a positive connotation? Which are
neutral? Which have a negative connotation? What feeling registers most strongly at the end
of the stanza?
In the second stanza, what is contradictory
about the expression "Heavenly Hurt"? What is
In the third stanza, what does "it" refer
to? Compare the expression "imperial affliction" to
Fourth stanza. What is "it"? What is "the
Distance/ On the look of Death"? What effect does
|328. Notice the meter (rhythm) of this poem. Count the
syllables (stressed and unstressed) in
each line. Which line in each stanza is different? Which stanza in the poem is different
from the others?
Now relate the structure to the meaning.
What happens in the stanza that is structurally
How does the final stanza bring the poem
to a new level? What metaphors does it use? What
Study Dickinson's skillful and playful language.
What pun is she making with the word "Grass"
|341. What kind of "great pain" is implied by the first
line? What is the "formal feeling" Dickinson describes? How does the imagery
of the poem ("ceremonious, like Tombs"; "Quartz contentment") illustrate
this formal feeling?
What parallels might be drawn between the steps of the
final line"Chill," "Stupor," "letting go"
What purpose do the dashes (--) serve in the final stanza?
How does the metrical structure of each stanza differ?
Can you find any purpose in the meter
|448. In the first line: what is "This"? "It"? "That"?
Can we say? Why is the first verb past tense
and the second present tense?
Who is "Us"?
In what sense does the poet "Entitle Us by Contrast--/ To ceaseless PovertyŚ"?
Who is "so unconscious" of "Portion"? Are there different
possibilities? What "Robbing"
Think carefully about Dickinson's choice of the following words: "distills," "Arrested," "Entitles," "Robbing"? What metaphors are implied by these words? What relationships exist between them?
465. It is helpful in reading this poem to be aware
of two aspects of the Puritan tradition that
It's gathered film
Kindled one moment with a sudden glow
Of tearless agony,--and fearful pangs,
Racking the rigid features, told how strong
A mother's love doth root itself. One cry
Of bitter anguish, blent with fervent prayer,
Went up to Heaven,--and, as it cadence sank
Her spirit entered there.
Quoted in Barton Levi St. Armand, Emily Dickinson and
Her Culture: The Soul's Society
How is Dickinson's poem similar to Sigourney's? How is it markedly different?
632. Focus especially on the final stanza. What
is the difference between "Syllable" and "Sound"
640. What is the poem's persona giving up and why?
In view of the footnote about the sexton's several duties,
in what sense might life be something
How do the speaker and her lover each seem to stand in regard to religion?
In what sense is "Despair" a "White Sustenance"?
712. What is the conceit (extended metaphor) in this poem?
What are the respective roles of the woman and the man
in the particular relationship
How does the narrator manipulate perspectives of time
and space, and why?
754. What is the identity of the speaker in this poem?
Is it possible to read the entire poem as a little story told from the
perspective of a gun? If so, what is the relationship of the gun to its
owner? One problem with this interpretation is that in the first line the
speaker identifies her "Life" with a "Loaded Gun," a metaphor that
would seem to rule out the possibility that she is herself a gun (A gun,
if it could talk, would say, "I am a gun," not "My life is a gun."). Thus
the reader is sent searching for the thing whose life the gun merely represents.
What could this thing (idea, concept, entity, person, etc.) be? Use your
imagination, but remember that whatever it is, it would need to be able
(if it could talk) to sensibly say everything that the speaker says.