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Themes in I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

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

Text of the Poem

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"Plank in Reason,..."   (Text of the Poem)

When the “plank in reason” breaks, the speaker falls into a seemingly bottomless pit. This metaphorically could represent a descent into a madness or a complete mental deterioration. The “reason” or “sense” that has been holding her up and trying to break through the madness since the beginning of the poem finally fails in this stanza.

"Heavens were a Bell,..."   (Text of the Poem)

The sound in the speaker’s head has grown from drumming, to creaking, to filling an entire space, to filling all of the Heavens. The escalation of the sound signifies that the speaker has been completely consumed by these thoughts.

"numb..."   (Text of the Poem)

Notice that she does not know her mind is going numb but rather thinks her mind is going numb. This underscores the internal nature of the speaker’s crisis: the sound and sensations she experiences all occur within her head.

"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.

"—..."   (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.

"And hit a World, at every plunge, ..."   (Text of the Poem)

Dickinson’s use of the word “hit” here is interesting as it suggests a sudden impact or collision. Though the speaker’s descent into madness has been somewhat gradual, the pace here quickens. If we read the poem as the speaker’s descent into madness caused by a recognition of her own mortality, this realization is violent and disorienting. She “plunge[s]” into “World[s]” (thoughts, feelings, ideas) that she can no longer make sense of. She no longer has anything to keep herself grounded with.

"Wrecked, solitary, here—..."   (Text of the Poem)

Notice that the speaker’s thoughts here are both ambiguous and fragmented as she listens to these increasingly loud noises. The speaker is unable to speak in full sentences or to communicate her experience, indicating her diminishing mental processes. Consider too, that the speaker’s inability to grasp and communicate what is happening emphasizes her separation from the physical world—either in death, or in mental awareness as she retreats further into her mind and away from her surroundings.

"Funeral,..."   (Text of the Poem)

Funerals generally precede a burial of something that has died. In using this metaphor, the speaker could be symbolically burying clear, rational thought. The “funeral” in her brain then commemorates her descent into madness. She could also be imagining her own death. The “funeral” then symbolizes the madness caused by acknowledging her own mortality.

"heard..."   (Text of the Poem)

Notice that the speaker’s perceptions all come from the sense of sound rather than sight or smell. If she is imagining herself as a corpse, she would be listening to her own funeral—her eyes closed as in death.

"lift a Box..."   (Text of the Poem)

What the speaker “heard” in this line is the pallbearers (people who help carry the casket at a funeral) lifting the “Box,” or coffin. The coffin can symbolize different things depending on interpretation. If we read this poem as being about the speaker’s descent into madness, the coffin may be carrying the speaker’s formerly “sane” self. If the poem is the speaker’s imagining her own death and funeral, the coffin contains her corpse as she imagines it.

"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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