I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died

I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died

by Emily Dickinson

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –
The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm –

The Eyes around – had wrung them dry –
And Breaths were gathering firm
For that last Onset – when the King
Be witnessed – in the Room –

I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away
What portion of me be
Assignable – and then it was
There interposed a Fly –

With Blue – uncertain – stumbling Buzz –
Between the light – and me –
And then the Windows failed – and then
I could not see to see –

Summary of I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died

  • Popularity: “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died” is one of the best poems written by Emily Dickinson which dramatizes her vision of death. It was first published in 1896. It is a simple poem, reflecting the morbidity of dying using imageries. The dead speaker is describing the events that led to her death. Since its publication, it has won a lot of admiration from its readers for its subject matter.
  • “I Heard a Fly Buzz” as a Representative of Death: As this poem is about death, the poet illustrates what happens when she dies. She says that she hears a fly buzzing when she dies then details the moments that eventually lead to her death. In the first stanza, she sets the scene for the upcoming event, death. She says that the room is quiet and calm. Then she presents a graphic detail of the mourners gathered around her. They are also quiet with their dried eyes waiting for the speaker’s expected death. She willingly gives away her worldly possessions and is ready for the journey ahead. Just then, a fly interposes and blocks her worldly sight. Therefore, “buzzing of the fly” refers to the presence of death. However, the “fly” which comes between light and her, represents the last vision she sees before death, or it could be the death that has put a full stop before her life.
  • Major themes: Death and acceptance are the major themes of the poem. The poet foregrounds these themes in a simple language. She accepts the unavoidable death and embraces it by signing her will. She adds that when she is giving away her possessions, a fly comes and blocks her vision. Using figurative language, she creates an image of death which is not ruthless, or brutal. Instead, it is represented as a king that makes his presence known when he arrives.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died”

Literary devices are tools used to express their feelings, ideas, and emotions effectively and clearly. Emily has used some literary devices to bring uniqueness and richness in the poem. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been detailed below.

  1. Imagery: The use of imagery makes the reader visualize the writer’s feelings and emotions. Emily had used images such as, “Between the Heaves of Storm” “Between the light – and me” “There interposed a Fly” and “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died.” The first attracts the sense of sight, while the second and third attract the sense of hearing.
  2. Simile: It is used to draw a comparison of one object with another to make the description more vivid. The second line of the first stanza The Stillness in the Room- Was like the Stillness in the Air” is an example of a simile. Here she compares the quietness of the room with the stillness of the air.
  3. Personification: Personification is used to give human characteristics to non-human things. The last two lines of the second stanza are examples of personification “when the King Be witnessed – in the Room,” as if the death is a human, and he is seen in the room.
  4. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /e/ in “And Breaths were gathering firm” and /i/ sound in “I heard the fly buzz.”
  5. Enjambment: Enjambment refers to the continuation of a sentence without a pause beyond the end of a line, couplet or stanza such as,

“The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air.”

  1. Oxymoron: It is a figure of speech in which contains contradictory terms that appear close to each other. For example, “Last” Here “last Onset” in Line 7 means the last breath the person takes when he or she dies.
  2. Onomatopoeia: It refers to the word which imitates the natural sounds of the things. Emily has used the word “buzz” in the first and the last stanzas of the poem.
  3. Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of any word or expression at the beginning of a clause. Emily has repeated the word “stillness” to emphasize the feeling of the room in the first two lines of the poem,

“The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air.”

  1. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /r/ inThe Eyes around – had wrung them dry”.
  2. Synecdoche: A figure of speech in which a part is made to represent the whole. Poet has used it in the fifth line of the poem, “The Eyes around – had wrung them dry.” Here “the eyes” represent a room full of people.

The literary analysis shows that Emily Dickinson has successfully used these literary devices to capture the stages of death in this poem.

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “I heard a Fly Buzz When I Died”

 Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Stanza: A stanza is the poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas in this poem.
  2. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here each stanza is quatrain as the first one and the second one.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: Emily has not used any specific rhyme scheme in this poem. The first three stanzas vary in their form and meter. However, she has used full rhyme in the last stanza of the poem.
  4. Full Rhyme: It refers to the rhyme in which the stressed vowels and all following consonants and vowels are identical, but the consonants preceding the rhyming vowels are different such as “see”, “me.” The last stanza’s rhyme scheme is ABCB.

 Quotes for Usage

These lines can be used when narrating any personal experience of any peaceful place. These could also be used in a speech to describe the atmosphere of any tranquil and quiet location.

“The Stillness in the Room
Was like the Stillness in the Air –
Between the Heaves of Storm.”