It was not Death for I Stood Up Analysis by Emily Dickinson

About the author: The American poet Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830. She is considered as the most important American poet of the 19th century along with Walt Whitman. Dickinson was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Although she was from a prominent family with strong ties to its community, Dickinson lived much of her life in reclusive isolation. She studied at the Amherst Academy for seven years in her youth, next she went to Mount Holyoke Female Seminary before returning to her family’s house in Amherst. She never married, and most friendships between her and others depended entirely upon correspondence. She had written almost 1800 poems, of which a few dozen was published during her lifetime. She was an unconventional poet, but most of her works were altered by her publishers to fit it in the conventional poetic rules of the time. Her poems were unique for her era, and much ahead of her time; they contained short lines, typically lacked titles, and often use slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation.

Poetic devices in It was not Death for I Stood Up

METAPHOR: Line 7: “marble” is a metaphor for cold.

Line 24: “midnight” is a metaphor for the chaos in life.

Line 23: “key” is a metaphor for some kind of life support.

Line 25: “ticked” refers to movement.

PERSONIFICATION: Line 4: the bell has been personified.

It was not Death for I Stood Up Summary

The poem starts with the elimination of the factors that has not affected the speaker. The poem comprises of seven short stanzas.  Stanza one and two are completely devoted to pointing out what her condition is not. The poet has used very sleek, sharp and pristine detailing to give the readers a clear picture, thereby perfectly setting the mood of the poem.  Clearly, it was not death as she was able to stand. It was not even the night since she could hear the church bells which rang at noon.  Dickinson continues into the next stanza with the same tone. “Siroccos” refers to a hot and dry wind that blows from North Africa across the Mediterranean to Southern Europe. Even “frost” is taken off the list as she can feel the warmth of her body. She makes it clear that it is not even the heat of the fire, as her feet were cold enough to cool a chance. In the next line, the poet states that her situation has all the traits that she counted out in the first two stanzas. Her condition reminded her of a corpse lined up for burial. Her life is equivalent to a metaphorical coffin and has been stripped off of all joy and happiness. There is a sense of suffocation in her condition, hence the mention of the coffin. At midnight this feeling is enhanced as the human activities come to rest. Quite evidently the poet’s mind is in chaos; her thoughts are all haphazard. There is no hint of any possibility of her condition improving and no spar to stabilize herself with. Her hopelessness is so complete in itself that she has become completely numb. The poem ends with a sense of defeat where the poet accepts her condition, as there is no hint of a better future.

It was not Death for I Stood Up Analysis

The poem reflects the sadness in Dickinson’s life. Her biography is a proof that she was no stranger to loss and pain. Hence many of her poems explore the nature of death, darkness, so on. She had spent most of her life in seclusion which gave her time to reflect on human life and death, of course, is a major part of it. The first two stanzas present us with some potent images. The images are contradictory; she felt like a corpse but she felt the warmth of her body; she felt the warmth of her body but her feet were stone cold; hence at the very onset of the poem we become familiar with the chaotic state of mind of the poet. She draws few gloomy and morbid pictures of corpse lined up for burial; she feels lifeless and lost. She provides the reader with a better example to study her situation. The ground is like a beating heart which gives rise to trees. During autumn the trees start shedding their leaves and during winter there is almost negligible growth. It is as if the winter and autumn try to repel the life force of the soil. Dickinson identifies herself with the winter and autumn morning, trying to repel her desire to go on. However, in the last stanza, the poet provides a comparison which she thinks is the most appropriate. Her condition is a total chaos. It is unstoppable and disappointing at the same time. It hardly offers or guarantees her any kind of stability. The last two lines are almost like a cry of a helpless soul, where the poet is in a sea of confusion, not sure what to do. She sees no possibility of a better future, she sees no hope, and she feels numb and is unable to “justify despair”. Hence she gives into the situation and helplessly accepts her fate.

Tone of the poem: The tone of the poem is melancholic; it is the cry of a depressed and helpless soul, who has realized that there is no way out of the situation; as the chaos in her mind doesn’t even allow her to judge her situation. Dickinson is recreating a state of hopelessness that probably she had experienced in her life (keeping in mind her biography).

Conclusion: The poem looks like a page from a poet’s diary narrating the account of the feelings of a very depressing day. She has successfully created a state of a depression so profound that a psychologist might diagnose it as clinical depression. The speaker thought tries to but fails to define her situation; her chaotic mind doesn’t allow her to do that.

Abhishek is a marketing research and social media consultant who developed a keen interest in blogging. He can be contacted at

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