Literary Devices in I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
Literary Devices Examples in I felt a Funeral, in my Brain:
Text of the Poem
"down, and down—..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
The repetition of “down” in this line reflects the repetition of the sounds in the beginning of the poem. The speaker’s plunge into this grave reflects a plunge into madness while the repetition recalls the way in which sound brought about that madness.
"toll..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
Notice though that this “tolling” is not directly connected to the sound of bells. The “space” tolls rather than the line directly stating that bells toll. The speaker conjures the sound of bells and the image of a funeral without stating either word. In this way, the speaker draws the reader into her mind; we are hearing and seeing what she is hearing and seeing without the direct language that references the physical objects.
"creak..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
“Creak” is a verb that means to make a harsh, shrill, or grating sound due to friction and strain. It has negative connotations that suggest extreme discomfort or auditory violence. That this horrible sound affects the speaker’s “soul” suggests that the sound has consumed the speaker. Sound in this poem builds from a drum to this “creaking” to show the growing intensity of the speaker’s fears.
"—..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
Notice that the poem ends with an em-dash, suggesting that we cannot know what happens after death or insanity. We lose the speaker’s voice and final explanation of her experience of death, much like we would after an actual death.
"Boots of Lead..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
Recall that the term “creak” in the previous line has violent connotations, and consider that lead is the heaviest of base metals. The imagery of the “Boots of Lead” here thus creates an even more brutal, cruel tone. Further, considering that Dickinson often capitalized various words for emphasis, her capitalization of the “Boots of Lead” also gives them a heavy, powerful feeling in relation to the rest of the line.
"Funeral..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
“Funeral” is a metaphor that communicates grief over the death of something. The speaker experiences this feeling of mourning within her “brain.” This opening suggests that the whole poem will occur within the speaker’s head.
"were seated..." See in text (Text of the Poem)
For each stanza, Dickinson will detail different parts of funeral rites in order to convey the speaker’s mental collapse. Here, the “Mourners” from the first stanza have settled in their seats to listen to the service. The third stanza details the speaker’s casket being carried to the burial site. In the fourth, the “Bell” tolls to signal her passing, and in the final stanza, her casket is lowered into the ground.