The Use of Figurative Language in the Poems of Emily Dickinson

Last Updated: 06 Feb 2023
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Figurative language dips poems in a liquid that gives it the charm of many interpretations. Specifically in Emily Dickinson's work, she abuses the use of similes, metaphors, and personification. Her poems, “My life closed twice before the close,” “I heard a fly buzz- when I died,” and “Much madness & Divinest Sense" thoroughly provides evidence of her usage of figurative language.

In "I heard a fly buzz- when I died,” Dickinson utilizes similes and metaphors. For example, when describing the setting of the poem she says, "The Stillness in the Room/Was like the Stillness in the Air /Between the Heaves of Storm” (lines 1-3), Dickinson is comparing the stillness of the room and air to the stillness of calm storm waves. Using this simile, the reader is able to imagine how the author wanted to portray the setting. Another example would be when Dickinson conveys that, "Between the light - and me -/And then the Windows failed - and then/I could not see to see -" (lines 14-16), the windows compared to eyes that fail to see when death is coming. This metaphor provides the reader with a better understanding of the mood and atmosphere of the scene in the poem. The appliacation of figurative language allows the reader to understand the overall picture and feeling the author is intending; that life and even death in general are lonely.

Another poem that effectively demonstrates Dickinson's use of figurative language is her poem, "The soul selects her own society." Particularly the lines where Dickinson talks about herself in the form of a different characters and implies, "The Soul selects her own Society/Then - shuts the Door" (lines 1-2). This is an example of personification because In reality, souls cannot select her own society nor shut a door. By applying this use of personification, the reader can understand the personality of her character through the comparison. The use of those two figurative language devices helps the reader grasp the rejection, selection, and decision making that life provides.

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With this in mind, Dickinson's poem, "My life closed twice before the close," she makes use of an extended metaphor throughout the whole poem. In particular, Dickinson writes, "If Immortality unveil /A third event to me" (lines 3-4) she compares events to deaths; each event is someone's death. Without careful analyzation, an oblivious reader would not understand the whole poem without taking in consideration of the metaphor used to compare events to death. In Dickinson's eyes, there is only death in this world; which is better? She does not know herself.

In conclusion, Emily Dickinson use of figurative language throughout her poems such as, "I heard a fly buzz when I died,” “The soul selects her own society" and "My life closed twice before the close" provides the reader with a better understanding of what life means to Dickinson; that life is lonely and miserable. The art of poetry has it's own style because of author's methods of figurative language, without it, poems would just be words on a paper with only one interpretation.

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The Use of Figurative Language in the Poems of Emily Dickinson. (2023, Jan 05). Retrieved from

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