Analysis Pages

Tone in I Died for Beauty

Tone Examples in I Died for Beauty:

Text of the Poem

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""For beauty," I replied. ..."   (Text of the Poem)

Notice that the conversation between the speaker and the other man takes on a very nonchalant tone. It seems as if it is simply another ordinary day and the two have met by happenstance and engaged in casual conversation. In making their deaths seem more normal, Dickinson again makes death seem less ominous and frightening.

"softly..."   (Text of the Poem)

“Softly” creates a relaxing, quiet, and unalarming tone. Although the poem describes the deaths of two people, which might seem mysterious and ominous, Dickinson’s use of the term “softly” contradicts this. Death here feels quiet and even possibly comforting, rather than scary or morose. This kind of contrast between darkness and light, odd eeriness and regularity, is characteristic of Dickinson’s poetry. She often uses seemingly opposing themes, imagery, and wording to reveal and reflect on the mysteries of life.

"Adjusted..."   (Text of the Poem)

Notice that the term “adjusted” conveys a casual tone, which is interesting considering that the speaker has just died and been buried. The matter-of-fact language here recalls the way in which one might talk about “adjusting” to the change in weather, or a new job. Dickinson’s casual style of language makes the poem read like a recounting of an everyday experience that is not to be feared, rather than an eerie, ominous vision of death.

"I died..."   (Text of the Poem)

The first line of the poem is paradoxical: the speaker is dead, yet speaking. Dickinson often uses paradoxes in her poetry to manipulate tone. In this case, the first two words give the poem an immediate tone of mystery, but the reader is asked to accept the reality one can speak from beyond the grave. Dickinson uses this strategy to reflect on the meaning of death from a perspective that has already experienced it. Thus, she is able to reach beyond the limits of “truth” or human knowledge, a theme throughout the rest of the poem.

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