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I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died –

Theresa Sowerby | Monday September 03, 2012

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Introduction and Biography | Features of Dickinson’s Style | Themes and Subject Matter | Poem by Poem Analysis | Sample Answer

A Selection of Poems

Based on the requirements of OCR unit F661.

Note: individual analyses with potential links with other poems marked in blue.

Contents

  1. Poem 258: There’s a certain Slant of Light
  2. Poem 280: I felt a Funeral in my Brain
  3. Poem 341: After great pain, a formal feeling comes
  4. Poem 465: I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
  5. Poem 501: This World is not Conclusion
  6. Poem 510: It was not Death, for I stood up
  7. Poem 712: Because I could not stop for Death
  8. Poem 721: Behind Me - dips Eternity
  9. Poem 754: My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –
  10. Poem 1400: What mystery pervades a well!
  11. Poem 670: One need not be a Chamber - to be Haunted & Exemplar Exam Answer

4. Poem 465: I heard a Fly buzz – when I died

I heard a Fly buzz - when I died - 

The Stillness in the Room

Was like the Stillness in the Air - 

Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around - had wrung them dry - 

And Breaths were gathering firm 

For that last Onset - when the King 

Be witnessed - in the Room –



I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away 

What portion of me be 

Assignable - and then it was 

There interposed a Fly –

With Blue—uncertain stumbling Buzz - 

Between the light - and me - 

And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –

Points to consider:

  • What is unusual about the speaker’s perspective?
  • What, if any, significance might the fly hold?
  • What does the last stanza mean and how is it differentiated from the previous three?

Analysis

This is a famous and much debated poem, focusing, as often, on the subject of death but made particularly immediate as Dickinson adopts the conceit of using her first person narrator to reflect on the last moments of life and the experience of leaving it. The location for the whole poem is the room in which the speaker...


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