Summary and Analysis of I Died For Beauty by Emily Dickinson

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Emily Dickinson- Known for her unusual life of self-imposed seclusion, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) wrote poetry of power. She was one of the greatest poets of America. Born on 10 December, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts, a heavy influence of the Metaphysical poets of seventeenth-century England can be found in Dickinson’s poetry. Most of her works were published posthumously. Her poems are characterised for being unconventional with long disruptive dashes, heavy usage of iambic meter, forceful language, irregular rhyme and complete disregard for grammatical rules.


Setting of I Died For Beauty- 

The poem is set in the dwelling of the dead with a sombre atmosphere. It depicts a discourse between truth and beauty that are laid beside one another in the graveyard of mind. The context is herself and the milieu of her mind. Her imaginations and thoughts bear the fruit of her verses.

Poetic Devices in I Died For Beauty- 

Paradox: “I died for beauty” (Line 1)

 

Metaphor: “Until the moss had reached our lips, and covered up our names” – final perishing of mortal remains.

 

Style-

 

 

The evident use of surprise, paradox, simple language, complicated implications, and the use of phrasing indebted to riddles and parables makes the poetess a distinct character. The lucid language and simple worlds makes the poem easy to comprehend. The puzzling usage of subjects using different images is typical Dickinson style. The brevity of the poem is enhanced by the riddling qualities. There is a surprising jump from one topic to another with great agility, she is out sooner than she is in. Dickinson liberally plays with the grammatical rules in her poem; using punctuation marks with all the liberty. The images are crisp and objects have a metaphysical relationship with each other. The abstract ideas are linked with material entities to create an integral design of the world. Her poetry is compact and language is forceful. Substantial meanings are compressed into very few words through her aphoristic style.

The poem follows the ABCB rhyme scheme in all the three stanzas. The iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter are alternatively visible in each stanza- the first and third follows the former while second and fourth follows the latter. The meter is almost regular and there is a four-three-four-three stress pattern in each stanza.

 

Summary of I Died For Beauty- 

The poem begins with a paradoxical tone of a dead person speaking. Here the dead comprises the beauty. The first stanza speaks about the burial of beauty in a proper manner. She is being adjusted in the tomb carefully and lovingly. As she is laid, a company arrives beside her tomb. “Truth” is her new neighbour.

The second stanza is a discourse between the one who died for beauty and the one who died for truth. Sensing the presence of beauty beside his tomb, truth enquires about her cause of death. He addresses her slowly and genuinely, understanding that he was touching on a sore topic. He speaks softly to Her. Then “beauty” gives her reply, listening to which “truth” connects himself to the cause. He calls them “brethren” as both of them had given up their life for the fundamental they believed in.

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The bond formed between the duos is discussed in the final stanza. Though they had only met, they began to share a relation of kinsmen immediately. Like a long lost sibling, they continue talking for a long time. But finally they had to stop as their mortal body starts decaying and gets covered with moss.

Critical Analysis of I Died For Beauty- 

I Died for Beauty is a first person narrative by someone who died recently. The poem begins with a single person narrating her tale then immediately adding a companion to her. The whole poem is a discourse between the duo. There is a common factor that relates both the deaths- both steadfast for the fundamentals they believed in. The poem begins with the morbid assertion of the dead. She wants to confirm that everyone knew what she died for her. Her death is delicately dealt with and her mortal remains are carefully adjusted in the tomb by her loved ones. And surprisingly she doesn’t have to bear with loneliness as she is soon accompanied by someone who dies for truth. Her neighbour seems to be a thoughtful person which can be understood in the way he delicately deals with the topic of her death. She too can sense his sincerity and both become connected soon. Like kinsmen they share their tale of woes and talk till their mortal remains are no more present. In a way this poem can be considered as an extended metaphor of the fundamentals, Beauty and Truth. People who die upholding these fundamentals think their reason shall live beyond them. But it is a brutal truth of life that people forget and memories fade. Nothing remains forever.

Tone of I Died For Beauty-

The poem is provocative, that it instantly provokes thoughts of the reader. Through a mild discourse narrative the poetess speaks volume about the inevitability of the death of ideas and memories. The poetess uses an affirmative poetic tone in first person. The frequent usage of the first person gives her poems an intimacy and immediacy of the discourse. The conveying mode is highly subjective and based upon emotional experiences. The emphasis on subjectivity rather than rationality helps the readers to relate to the poem emotionally on a personal level in a quiet, grand and ominous manner.

 

Central Idea of I Died For Beauty- 

The poem is a story of two kindred souls who were martyred for the fundamentals they held fast for. There is a close similarity in the manner of their death, their burial and finally perishing. The death of two can be considered as those futile lives who felt that the ideology they believed shall outlive their worldly life and outshine the life they little cared about. The poem revolves around the idea of prioritising worldly fundamentals before and over the blessing called life, not appreciating its merits while one is still alive and blindly believing in something that shall perish in no time after one’s soul leaves his or her body.

Conclusion- The allegorical work I Died for Beauty depicts a short conversation between a person who died for Beauty and the one who died for Truth. The metaphorical poem deals with the larger than life ideas and themes. The abstract ideas of beauty and truth are given physical forms and are portrayed as martyrs whose name shall be covered in moss eventually, however noble shall their cause of death be. The three short quatrains speak how the great fundamentals like truth and beauty are subjected to the ravages of time.

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