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I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain

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Ceara Galli

on 25 July 2014

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Transcript of I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain

I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain
The Significance
The significance of the poem “I Felt a Funeral, Inside My Brain” is that she is having a mental breakdown followed the climactic moment at the end. We believe that something inside of her brain is dying. At the beginning of the poem, she is losing her sanity, experiencing her mind collapsing and breaking down, and she is uncertain about what’s going on. A death of a belief or the loss of something that was part of her has occurred. The result of this loss is her struggling to understand and she slowly starts to lose grip on reality. She begins to feel wrecked and alone, and almost as if her own sanity is asking “what is going on?” She has nothing to say, she cannot act upon it, and she feels separated from her sanity and sense.
I Felt a Funeral, In My Brain
By: Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading-treading-till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through-

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum-
Kept beating-beating-till I thought
My Mind was going numb-

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space-began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here-

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down-
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing-then-


Themes of The Poem
The theme of this poem is a mental breakdown because throughout the poem it reveals that she is going insane. At the beginning of the poem she is describing the death/funeral of what we believe is a belief or something that was a part of her. As she goes on to describe the funeral, she starts to get deeper into mourning the thing that has been lost. In the last stanza, she finally hits the climax of her mental breakdown and loses grip of reality, which causes her to completely lose her mind.
The Breakdown of The Poem
In the first line, we see that poet uses funeral as a metaphor for loss of hope and losing a part of herself. Readers can find out through the use of words that she is being overwhelmed by the irrationality. A funeral is the best use of word for the suffering engaging inside her mind. The most distinct connection to a funeral is death, implying that her sanity and mentality is dying. Also a funeral consists of rules and procedures that have to be followed. The control and order implied in a funeral ironically contrasts with the lack of control and the loss of sanity that the speaker is experiencing. The poet also repeatedly insert the word treading, meaning that she is struggling with herself and trying to keep her head above water, also a pressure that is pushing her down.
Using descriptive sound words, this stanza reveals the speaker’s growing fear and mental instability. The mourners sat down meaning that her mind settles but not for long, before the service drums start to beat. The beating of the drums is another attack on her sanity. The attack is so malicious that she feels her mind is going numb.
The speaker is now ready for burial because she is becoming more and more unstable and feel as if death is the answer. She uses her hearing sense to describe the upcoming breakdown. The speaker is hearing them creak across her soul, the sound is unpleasant almost as if the sound of the boots are trampling over her. In reality, her mind is bombarded with thoughts of insanity. Her breakdown becomes worse.
The speaker hears the sound of the church bells, used during funerals, marking the end of her life, meaning that she is ready for the ultimate death and the burial of her unstable mind for the reason that the attack of insanity in her brain is becoming robust. The speaker inside the coffin which is ultimately her insane mind, she feels destroyed and alone. The speaker becomes is becoming vague as the poet decides to use single, distorted words suggests the difficulty of using solid sentences to talk about her mentality.
The plank, meaning her mind and the very last bit of reason and clarity that she is hanging on to has finally broken. The speaker is now falling deeper in to dementia and at last she hits rock bottom. A casket is normally gently lowered in to the ground but the speaker uses words such as broke, dropped, and plunge, meaning she made her way down to her resting place aggressively. In the speaker’s mind, she is plummeting even deeper into the darkness of hysteria, not being able to revive herself, she is in a state of unconsciousness, unable to get out from the trap inside her mind. She believe this is the lowest level of insanity she has sank to but, her last word is “then” meaning that there was more torture coming, leaving the readers in a cliffhanger situation, suggesting that there is no end to her ambiguous mind.

I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain
Historical Content
The most important author that swayed her poetry was the American philosopher, poet, and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882). To better appreciate the academic aspect of Dickinson’s time, here is an examination of this poet. Emerson was one of the creators of transcendentalism, a loose but active philosophy, it was seen as the severe devotion to reason by the eighteenth-century, which enlightened writers. They believed in the spirituality of human beings and the authority of the individual. They focus on perception as a means of discovering the truth of human existence. The beauty and force of nature was another transcendentalist belief, as was the value and virtue of self-confidence. Many of these ideas were expressed by Emerson in his Essays: First Series (1841), Essays: Second Series (1844), Poems (1846), and Representative Men (1850). Dickinson received a copy of Emerson’s Poems in 1850. There are comments in Emerson’s work that repeat Dickinson’s decision to pursue a private life. For example, in the essay “The Celebration of the Intellect,” Emerson orders, “Keep the intellect sacred. Go sit with the hermit in you, who knows more than you do.” In his poem “Saadi,” he suggests the cliché, “Men consort in camp and town / But the poet dwells alone.” While Dickinson responded to Emerson’s individual comments is a matter of assumption, she did adopt something of a transcendentalist behaviour in her decision to leave a world established on materialism and logic and, as she herself described in one of her poems, “dwell” in the “possibility” of discovering the truths of human existence.


Information About The Author
Emily Dickinson didn’t leave any evidence about herself besides her poetry that was found only after her death. Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, Massachusetts. She is the second child of Edward and Emily Dickinson. Her father felt that women (his two daughters included) should stay at home and leave the running of the country to the men. Her father did confirm that his daughters were given exceptional educations; Emily attended Amherst Academy (where she studied both the liberal arts and sciences) and then Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now called Mount Holyoke College) for a year before leaving in 1848 because she found the coursework unchallenging. She received a copy of Emerson’s Poems in 1850. Emerson’s radical ideas about the theology of man and his studies of Eastern philosophy stuck in Dickinson’s mind, and she stayed a follower of Emerson’s for the rest of her life. She began creating verse remains a matter of some discussion. In 1862, she sent some of her poems to Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a noticeable essayist whom showed little gratitude for her work. Less than twenty of her poems were published in her lifetime. Dickinson withdrew from the world and never left her father’s house. She died from Bright’s disease on May 15, 1886. After her death, her sister Lavinia revealed about two thousand poems written on small slips of paper and stitched together in little booklets. One of these was “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain.”


Poetic Devices
The poem is written in alternating iambic trimeter and iambic tetra meter.

Alliteration - 'felt a funeral' (Stanza 1, line 1) 'silence some strange' (Stanza 4, line 15)

Onomatopoeia - 'creak' (Stanza 3 line 10)

Repetition - 'treading, treading', (Stanza 1, line 3) 'beating, beating' (Stanza 2, Line 7)

Metaphor - 'heavens were a bell' Stanza 4, Line 1)

Style/ Elements of Structure
The overall structure of the poem is written in the form of a lament as the poem expresses a great deal of articulating grief. Grief is conveyed throughout the entire poem but particularly in the following lines. For example:
And then I heard them lift a Box 9
And creak across my Soul 10

And I, and Silence, some strange Race 15
Wrecked, solitary, here— 16
And then a Plank in Reason, broke, 17
And I dropped down, and down— 18
And hit a World, at every plunge 19
The poet uses words such as, silence, wrecked, solitary, plunge, and funeral to display the sorrows within the speaker as she begin to fall deeper in to insanity.
As seen, the speaker within the poem is extremely unstable and confused so the poet uses distorted and unusual words and phrases to parallel the ambiguous setting and mind of the speaker, making the poem seem also very unorderly, just like the emotions the speaker is currently experiencing and expressing.
The sounds heard in the poem are used as metaphors for her state of mind, the meter added importance. In the first stanza, the stable beat of the mourning people’s footsteps (“Kept treading—treading—till it seemed / That Sense was breaking through” in stanza one, lines 1 and 4) builds up the treading sound of the lines.
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