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Emily Dickinson: I Heard a Fly Buzz- When I died

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Anne Hoey

on 29 January 2014

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Transcript of Emily Dickinson: I Heard a Fly Buzz- When I died

Emily Dickinson: I Heard a Fly Buzz- When I died
Pair Activity:
What is the theme of this poem?

Describe the atmosphere/mood of this poem

What is your personal response to the poem?

Compare this poem with an other Dickinson poem on your course.

This movingly depicts the process of dying. The poems final stanza powerfully portrays a mind dissolving as life leaves it.

There is something powerful in the repetition of 'And then' as the speaker reveals her relentless mental collapse.
As she passes away her vision fails.


The speaker was prepared for death, she has made her will and her family are gathered around her.
Strangely, the last sound she hears is not the soothing words of her family but the buzzing of a fly.

In this poem the speaker talks to us from beyond the grave.
She reveals that as she passed away a fly was buzzing in room
'I heard a Fly buzz- when I died'
The speaker's last experience in this world is of an insect. This robs her of her grace and dignity even in death.
The fly as a personification of death
Flies are often associated with death, disease and decay ( all negative)

Dickinson appears to personify death like that of the black- cloaked figure. Death is a giant fly blocking out the light of this world.

Death (as a fly) waiting to claim us at the end of our lives is disturbing. Yet the fly is 'uncertain' which makes it less menacing.
The speaker presents a mocking view of religion.
The speaker and her loved ones wait anxiously for the 'King' to enter the room.

Yet, at the moment of her death there is no sign. The last the speaker witnesses is not the glorious arrival of the King but the buzzing of a fly.
The poem appears to offer little hope of life after death.
The poem ends with the dying speaker's vision fading to darkness.

Dickinson appears to be suggesting that this black oblivion is all that awaits us when we pass away.
Style: Metaphor
Dickinson cleverly uses a powerful metaphor to describe the speaker's failing vision. She reveals that the 'Windows failed'.
They were suddenly unable to perform their function of letting light into the room.
Style: Simile
Dickinson uses a fine simile to describe the momentary silence in the room when the speaker is a brief respite ' eye of hurricane'.

The simile deftly captures the tense atmosphere of dread and expectancy that exists around the deathbed.
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