I felt a Funeral, in my Brain
by Emily Dickinson
Stanza V Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down–
- The floor that the speaker is standing on literally drops out from beneath her.
- This floor is made of planks, so it must be wood. The idea of a wooden floor fits with the descriptions of creaking and breaking earlier in the poem.
- The floor is described as "Reason," a word you might interpret as intelligence, rationality, or sanity. Whatever it is, reason is the only thing that has been supporting her all this time. When reason breaks, she falls "down, and down."
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing–then–
- D'oh! Like a cartoon character tumbling improbably off a cliff and hitting every rock and branch on the way down, the speaker keeps hitting "a World, at every plunge."
- It's one of Dickinson's particular quirks that she rarely provides any clues as to what her symbols mean. Don't feel like you're missing something here: "World" could mean a lot of things.
- Our two cents are that the speaker has inhabited one particular world – the world of Reason – through most of the poem. But now that she has broken through reason, she comes into violent contact with other, "irrational" worlds. Of course, lacking reason, she can't describe them!
- At the end of her fall, or at least the end of the poem, she "Finished knowing." It makes sense for someone who has lost their power of reason or intelligence to not be able to know things anymore.
- The word "then," like the word "here" in the fourth stanza, seems tacked-on and not very helpful. It leaves the poem in an open-ended place, because you could also read "then" as the beginning of a new experience that we'll never get to read about. She has this huge fall, and then…and then?
- Critics have interpreted this ending in many ways. It could be that she blacks out at the end of a traumatic experience and loses her power to remember what happened. It could be that, she passes into death, this being a funeral and all. Or maybe she has been dead the whole time and now the casket is dropping into the grave. Or she has gone insane.
- There are many more interpretations that you could think up. What's yours?