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After Great Pain Formal Feeling Comes

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1586 words Published: 27th Apr 2017

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One of the most wonderful, exciting pages in the history of the world womens literature that deserve the attention of people is the destiny and the work of a famous American poet Emily Dickinson. Her work, the same as the works of Whitman, contributed the American and the world poetry in the second half of the 19th century (Voices & Visions: Emily Dickinson 1999).

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Emily Dickinson is known to be a passionate poet and her poetry reflects all the emotional intensity of her soul. The poetry is so touching, thoughtful, impressive and sad at the same time. Emily Dickinson felt the life with the whole heart, with intensity which she shared with riders in her outstanding poetry. Here is what she wrote about her life: “I find ecstasy in living, the mere sense of living is joy enough” (Kennedy 2005).

The heroes of Dickinson’s poetry are very different, such as a queen, a bridegroom, a wife, a little girl, a bride, a dying man or many others. Even though almost 150 of her poems start with “I”, the poem shouldn’t be understood as autobiographical, because the speaker is probably fictional. The poet wanted to be readers to separate her life from her poetry, so wrote: “When I state myself, as the Representative of the Verse, it does not mean–me–but a supposed person.” (Howe 2007).

Emily Dickinson touched a lot of topics in her poetry, but most of all she wrote about inner world (“I felt a funeral in my brain”, “I felt a cleaving in my mind”), about death (“I heard a fly buzz when I died” , “I died for beauty, but was scarce”), about love (“I cannot live with you”, “Wild nights! Wild nights!”), and about God and religion (“Heaven is what I cannot reach!”, “The heart asks pleasure first”) ( Smith 1992).

In the poem “After great pain, a formal feeling comes …” the author explains the reader the feelings that appear “after great pain”. This poem tells about a great emotional hurt, about great tragedy that let to the heartache. Imagery is used by Emily Dickinson for this purpose. The first line of the poem hides the subject of the poem and is the only line with an abstract statement (Kennedy 2005).

The poem tells about the pain, but it is not a physical pain; it more like mental pain, which connects with feeling of sadness, sorrow, fear, disappointment and fear. The author writes: “the nerves sit ceremonious like tombs” – it can be understood that the nerves are a group of people after a funeral. All people are dressed in black after a funeral, so they may be said to look like tombs. That is why the word “tomb” can be used to describe a person who has just suffered from a great pain, and who can’t have any other emotions, because the part of his heart still feels as dead. As it is understood, a tomb has very similar qualities of deadness, such as stillness and quietness. The readers of the poem can notice and feel that this lack of feeling is very strong, and the author lives through life not feeling, just numb from hurt.

The poem describes the hour of death, as the author sees it. A lot of things remind us about death, such as tomb, formal, ceremony, and other, that is why I think it is rather obvious that the poem is about death, dying and our rituals. Nearly always the pain is associated with death.

Making the analyses of the poetry, we can see that the word “Death” and related to it terms such as Perish, Dead, Grave, Tomb, Graveyard, can be seen in the pages of Dickinson at least 364 times, nearly in every fifth poem. Emily Dickinson felt an outstanding interest in death as a process and a phenomenon. And we can suppose that Death for the author is the main character, the scale of any phenomenon.

The main hero’s unemotional heart makes her doubt in God and the whole life in general. Author’s questions about religion and faith were unanswered during all her life. It seems that she is ready to doubt God specifically after the death had happened. It is not understandable, why would something or someone so magnificent and powerful take away such a precious thing as life… The answer may have never been gotten by Dickinson. In the poem she struggles in her own mind, trying to understand which emotions to feel, and which is better to discard. She doesn’t know how to cope with death, how to learn to accept it as a natural, essential part of life. These answers are the ones she seeks while pleading with her God.

We can see that the imagery (in the first line of the last stanza) is identified as the possession of a spread quality, the quality of cruel lifelessness. At the same time, the heart is “stiff”, the feet walk a “wooden” way, the contentment is called a “quartz” contentment and the hour is that of “lead.” Mentioning this type of imagery is extremely important in explaining the sense of numbed consciousness, emphasizing that the feet move automatically, mechanically and are “regardless” of where they move. One more interesting fact is that the lines are connected together, by the reference of the imagery to the result of grief, and by stating in series what occurs to different parts of the body, such as nerves, heart and feet (Bianchi 2007).

Summarizing, I can say that the author has created an inanimate lifelessness effect, may be stony, or wooden, or even leaden stiffness. After that, the poet uses a new figure, the figure of the freezing person, which represents the effect of those which were before it, but which nevertheless gives a powerful and rather fresh statement.

Such expression, as “Remembered if outlived,” is especially powerful. It means that that few outlive the experience in order to remember and retell it to others. Such grief experience reminds a death by freezing: first, there is the chill, later the stupor because the body becomes numbed, and in a while the last stage in which the body finally loses the fight with the cold, it relaxes and finally dies. The parallel of the stages of death by freezing to the condition of the deep shock of grief shock on the mind makes a very powerful meaning. Also there is another reason why this last figure affects us. The images in the first two stanzas match the “stupor.” The new twist or idea appears in the last line; the twist which fills a context in order to precede imagery, then explains it and makes it even more significant. The first two stanzas are full of formality, the stiffness, the numbness, and it is understandable, because the author tried to hold in, the struggle of the mind against leaving; it is a natural defense of the mind (Bianchi 2007).

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One of the lines “A quartz contentment like a stone,” is very interesting. Making such comparison, the author involves two different things. First of all, we see the development of the usual association of stoniness with the numbness of grief, the same as in such expressions as “stony-eyed” or “heart like a stone,” and so on. (Kennedy 2005). There are several reasons why the poet uses “quartz”. The stone’s name helps to go into the details of the figure and not to spread the effect of a cliché. Also, we know that quartz is a very hard stone and a crystal, so “quartz contentment” is a contentment crystallized out of the pain. The second general aspect that is seen in the poem is ironical. The contentment which appears exactly after the shock of extreme pain shows the inability to respond in any other way, but with satisfaction.

The imagination of Dickinson often leads her into a very peculiar territory; some of her famous poems are strange, bizarre and eccentric death-fantasies with wonderful metaphorical conceits. But at the same time, she is very skillful in navigation of the domestic, writing astonishing nature-lyrics together with her wild flights of imagination, so often we even can find a great combination of two these spheres.

I need to mention that the greatest achievement of Dickinson as a poet of inwardness is her brilliant and even diamond-hard language of writing. She often writes aphoristically, I mean that she compresses a great meaning into a rather small number of words. It sometimes makes her poems difficult to understand on a first reading, but when their meaning is discovered, it usually explodes in the mind all at once, so, those lines which seemed unclear become unforgettably understandable (Mcgrath 2009).

So, in her famous poem «After great pain, a formal feeling comes” Emily Dickinson wrote that after the great pain of someone’s death appears the feeling of a funeral. The people become quiet and feel like tombs. The people act like robots, walking down a wooded trail to the grave site. People are stiff when they reach the stone. The author shows the man who speaks of the deceased and of how he is remembered and who he is outlived by. All people are watching, standing in the cold and snow. First they are cold, later they are numb. The end of the poem makes readers to understand that those people have no other choice, but to let go and go back to life. This poem reflects the reality of people’s life.


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