Close Reading of Emily Dickinson’s Poem 280.
Emily Dickinson creates a dark and dreary atmosphere in Poem 280 of The Essential Dickinson. After close reading of this work, one can tell that Dickinson paid close attention to every detail and word of the poem to create this methodical, beating rhythm and monotonous tone. It seems as if Dickinson is portraying the thoughts of a person in a coffin who is hearing the works of her own funeral. In most cases of death, hearing is the last sense to be lost. Dickinson emphasizes this last Sense’ in her use of many auditory adjectives. These are the sounds that shape the person’s discernment of reality. The reader can never see or picture these people at the funeral in the narrator’s Brain. Instead, this poem is best understood by the sounds she describes it by. .
In the first stanza, Dickinson utilizes the metaphor of a “Funeral, in my Brain- (Ln. 1) and specifically uses capital letters to emphasize important nouns. .
I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,.
And Mourners to and fro.
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed .
That Sense was breaking through -.
In normal sentence structure, one does not capitalize words in the middle of a sentence; however, when Dickinson utilizes this style technique, it highlights the actual weight of each word (usually a noun). She captures the essence that the narrator is hearing every bit of her own funeral through repetition; moreover, she describes the thumping feeling of “Mourners to and fro Kept treading “treading- (Lns. 2-3). The repetition of “treading- in this line shows the drudgery and monotony of this person hearing her own funeral. The reader gets the sense that she is not dead because she personifies the last important sense of hearing as if it were about to explode, “That Sense was breaking though,””(Ln. 4). This evokes sympathy in the reader because to hear one’s own funeral, their own demise (especially when they are not even dead yet) is a fear almost every person has in their lifetime.