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Literary Devices in A Narrow Fellow in the Grass

Literary Devices Examples in A Narrow Fellow in the Grass:

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass

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"His notice sudden is—..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

Em dashes are used to indicate an abrupt change in thought. Though Dickinson often used em dashes for various, irregular reasons, the em dash here is critical. Since the speaker is trying to convey the “notice sudden,” or the surprise, that the sight of a snake often causes, the em dash gives the line the same jolting feeling that one would experience when encountering a snake in real life.

"rides..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

Notice that Dickinson uses the verb “rides” to describe the snake’s movement. The word sounds similar to “glides” or “writhes,” which one might usually associate with snakes. However “rides” suggests that the snake is being carried or floating along, making the snake seem less threatening and more passive. Note however, that the verb “rides” can also mean “to torment, harass, or tease,” which alludes to the snake’s sly nature. This clever word choice on the surface contributes to the jovial tone of the poem, while alluding to the snake’s hidden cunning.

"narrow Fellow..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

Notice that the word “Fellow” is capitalized. Dickinson often capitalized various words in her poems for emphasis. It is unclear why Dickinson chose to capitalize “Fellow,” but it could be speculated that since the snake is personified as a “narrow Fellow,” the capitalization might be acting as it would for a proper noun, further personifying the snake.

"narrow Fellow..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

An internal rhyme is a rhyme created by two or more words in the same line of verse. “narrow Fellow” is an example of an internal rhyme because of the repetition of the “ow” sound at the end of both words. The two words also create what is called a “slant rhyme,” which is a rhyme that forms similar, but not identical, sounds. In this case the slant rhyme is formed by the “rr” and “ll” consonant sounds in the respective words.

"narrow Fellow..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

In the opening line, Dickinson cleverly disguises the subject of the poem, a snake. “Narrow” means small in width, and “fellow” is a familiar term for a man or a boy. Using colloquial language like “narrow Fellow” makes the snake seem must less sinister and gives the poem a lighter, more amiable tone that contrasts with the poem’s tense subject matter.

"with a Comb— ..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

The image of the comb continues the poem’s titular metaphor: the snake as a “fellow.” Dickinson engages in this type of personification throughout the poem, adding additional touches to the snake’s identity as a person. These instances of personification build up to the final thematic turn, which reveals how non-human the snake truly is.

"It wrinkled..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

Another example of Dickinson's technique is rather than using the usual descriptors for a snake's motion, Dickinson again creates a concrete image: she shows a a harmless "whiplash" which, instead of slithering or writhing, merely "wrinkles."

"The Grass divides as with a Comb..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

One of the hallmarks of Emily Dickinson's poetry is to draw unusual comparisons.  In this case, Dickinson doesn't say the snake crawls through the grass; her image is much more concrete and visual—the snake moves through grass like a comb through hair.

"A narrow Fellow in the grass..."   (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)

Rather than use the word snake, which may have negative connotations for the reader,  Dickinson constructs a completely non-threatening image.  As readers, we might react with horror to snake but we are probably comfortable with a narrow Fellow.

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