Emily Dickinson

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. What if there were no pictures? What if there were only words? Rather than simply showing a picture to tell a setting, theme, feeling or mood, American literature writers use imagery to help readers visualize, create a mental picture, of the concepts within their masterpieces. With words like “a long and winding road” or “the cold and gloomy night air” one tends to develop a mental picture associated with the expressions. It is a writer’s use of imagery that can have a profound effect on their work. Emily Dickinson is a mastery of imagery and her Poem 591 (I heard a Fly buzz) illustrates the art brilliantly.

In the first stanza, the speaker is quick to convey image references for the reader. The first line immediately reveals, through the simple words “when I died,” that the speaker is dead. At this point one would have to wonder how can the speaker can be dead yet still hear the buzzing of a fly. Many people believe that even though our body may lie still, our souls can still be alive and, at some point, when we die our soul makes some sort of spiritual journey. It is this belief that the reader can visualize a lifeless body with a soul that can hear “a Fly buzz” (1) and a mental image quickly comes to mind of that annoying fly that never seems to go away no matter how many times one opens a window or attempts to shew it away.   To make matters worse, “the Stillness in the room” (2)leaves the reader little room for doubt that very little activity is taking place, except for that annoying buzzing sound. It is this “stillness” that leaves the reader with a mood of somberness.

In the second stanza the speaker illustrates that others present have expressed their grief and have gathered around the speakers deathbed awaiting the final moments as “the Eyes around – had wrung them dry – And Breaths were gathering firm” (5 - 6) when her breathing signifies the end is near “For the last Onset –“ (7) leaves the...