Themes in A Narrow Fellow in the Grass
Themes Examples in A Narrow Fellow in the Grass:
A Narrow Fellow in the Grass
"Several of Nature’s People..." See in text (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)
By “Several of Nature’s People,” the speaker is referring to animals. In other words, the speaker feels an affinity for all animals, except the snake. Because of the phallic shape of the snake, many literary critics have purported that the speaker’s fear of the snake is a symbol for Dickinson’s sexual fears. However, this is open to interpretation.
"Yet when a Boy, and Barefoot..." See in text (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)
Notice that we are given a description of our speaker for the first time here. The word “Boy” tells us that the speaker is male and describing an experience he had in his youth. The fact that the speaker is both young and “Barefoot” also underscores the speaker’s innocence and vulnerability. Dickinson thus makes the encounter with the snake seem more frightening and sinister. The imagery of a snake slithering across a “Barefoot” is particularly distressing and unsettling.
"And Zero..." See in text (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)
The final line contains a multi-layered metaphor. The phrase “Zero at the Bone” describes bone-chilling horror, a zero-degree temperature. It also suggests a state of personal annihilation, of becoming nothing. This final quatrain shows that the snake, personified as a harmless, “narrow Fellow” in the first quatrain, is not a person at all but a threat. The speaker, who loves all creatures, cannot love the treacherous trickster, the snake in the grass, the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Most pressingly, the speaker’s metaphors for the snake fall away, revealing the terrifying reality of the creature. This shift from trust to cold distrust is the poem’s central thematic turn.
"transport..." See in text (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)
The word “transport” operates in two ways here. A “transport” can refer to an emotionally charged trance or rapture. In this case, the speaker experiences an overwhelming feeling of “cordiality,” or good will, towards “Nature’s People.” By a more obscure definition, “transport” is a synonym for metaphor. Thus the speaker admits that the cordiality she feels for “Nature’s People” is an act of projection. Indeed, the personification underlying such a phrase is a marked example of metaphor. The poem’s great thematic shift is a move away from a metaphor-driven relationship with the natural world.
"a Whip lash Unbraiding in the Sun..." See in text (A Narrow Fellow in the Grass)
The metaphor of the “Whip lash/ Unbraiding in the sun” is clever in the context of the poem’s broader themes. Throughout the poem, the speaker attempts to make sense of the snake by personification and comparison. As the poem reaches its conclusion, those attempts at familiarization fall apart. Thus, the figure of the whip lash begins unbraiding as soon as it appears.
"with a Comb— ..." See in text (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.