I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain

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In Emily Dickinson’s allegorical poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,” the narrator uses the extended metaphor of a funeral to describe the loss of a part of mind (most likely her sanity). By doing so, she seems to distance and isolate herself from the people and events that caused her loss, instead choosing to detail the progression of the funeral to parallel her descent into madness. This allegory is supported by different structural aspects of the poem, which include choices of words or groups of words to illustrate different aspects of the funeral and the emotional state of the narrator, as well as the overall form of the poem. While the words Dickinson uses are straightforward and easy enough to understand the first time around, on closer reading her word choices are very specific. In the first line, she writes, “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” (1), which very clearly tells the reader that the funeral she is about to recount is internal and is being held for some part of her mind. Next, the mourners she describes are not typical; ordinarily, they would be respectful to the dead, but in this case, the alliteration “treading – treading” (3) and the phrase “sense was breaking through” (4) suggest that the mourners are annoying or otherwise causing mental anguish for the narrator. Therefore, there is some irony here – the mourners are actually the ones responsible for the funeral. In these and the next few lines, the narrator also establishes a sense of isolation, of the self vs. “them”. It is striking that the mourners don’t cry or give a eulogy for the departed as they should at a funeral, which strongly suggests that she felt as if nobody cared about what happened to her. Instead, the funeral only “kept beating – beating – till I thought / My mind was going numb –” (7-8). The alliterations “beating – beating” and the previously used “treading – treading” are

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