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Metaphor in I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

Metaphor Examples in I felt a Funeral, in my Brain:

Text of the Poem

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"Plank..."   (Text of the Poem)

In the time in which Dickinson wrote, caskets would be placed on wooden planks and suspended over an open grave during a funeral. The planks would be removed and the casket would be manually lowered by six people when it came time for interment. In this metaphor, the speaker replaces these planks with “reason.” This suggests that her mind is in the casket suspended over a grave and held up only by these thin planks of reason.

"numb..."   (Text of the Poem)

“Numbness” is a lack of physical sensation. This “numbing” of her mind could be symbolic for the numbing of the “sense” that was trying to break through in the first stanza. The sound has built so much that it is drowning out her sense.

"beating..."   (Text of the Poem)

Notice how the “sound” in this stanza builds. It begins with the parishioners sitting quietly, then the drum slowly building in her mind. This movement dramatizes the speaker’s growing mental instability.

"A Service, like a Drum—..."   (Text of the Poem)

One interpretation of “Service” is the unification of the mourners. While in the first stanza the mourners meander to and fro, in the second stanza, the mourners seem to take uniform action: they become seated and take part in this “Service.” If we interpret the mourners as frantic thoughts in the speaker’s head, this “Service” and drumming come to represent all of her thoughts narrowing down to one preoccupation that takes over her whole mind.

"Finished knowing—then—..."   (Text of the Poem)

“Finished knowing” here becomes a metaphor for the fact that the speaker can no longer describe her thoughts and feelings using words. She is no longer a part of the physical world to which these words apply. The word, “then,” thus holds a double meaning. On the one hand, the speaker has moved to a place that normal language cannot describe, and her speech drops off because of this. On the other hand, the speaker cannot describe what comes next because she does not know.

"Sense..."   (Text of the Poem)

“Sense” could refer to her physical senses. In this interpretation of the word, the mourners are pacing so disruptively that physical “Sense” breaks through the stillness of death. She becomes unable to ignore these “Mourners” who impose themselves on her senses.

"Sense..."   (Text of the Poem)

Here, “Sense” could mean rational thought. In this interpretation, the thoughts go back and forth in her head until she feels as though “Sense” can break through the chaos in her mind.

" Mourners to and fro..."   (Text of the Poem)

Since the whole poem takes place inside the speaker’s head, the meandering “mourners” can be seen as the speaker’s wandering thoughts, pacing “to and fro.” This movement replicates the incessant, repetitive thought pattern that signals the speaker’s overwhelming obsession with death.

"Brain..."   (Text of the Poem)

“Brain” in this context has two meanings. It can both signify the physical organ and the abstract idea of the speaker’s mind. Dual meanings such as this one occur throughout the poem to underscore the speaker’s deteriorating mental state.

"Funeral..."   (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.

"I felt a Funeral, in my Brain, And Mourners to and fro..."   (Text of the Poem)

This is one of Dickinson's most enigmatic poems, although the central focus—some sort of personal anguish—is clear. The speaker imagines attending her own "Funeral," which serves as a metaphor for the loss of her reasoning capabilities or another form of psychological malady.

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