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I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –


by Emily Dickinson

Stanza III Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 9-11

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

  • Now the speaker switches gears a bit. We’ve just heard about the King, and we’re expecting the big event. Instead, Dickinson, backs off that point, and the speaker talks about giving away her possessions.
  • The image this is meant to call up is of a sweet, sad (maybe even a little sappy?) scene.
  • In her final act, the dying speaker gives up all the little things she won’t be needing anymore, her "keepsakes" as she calls them. Some part of herself and her life will stay behind after she leaves this world. That’s the part that she refers to as "assignable" (another way of saying "able to be given away").
  • This is a pretty quiet, calm, regular-sounding moment in the poem…until the end of line 11.
  • All of a sudden, something new is about to happen. Dickinson is setting up a little cliffhanger: "and then it was"…

Line 12

There interposed a Fly –

  • Then, all of a sudden, the fly is back.
  • It breaks into the poem, interrupting the quaint little deathbed scene. Dickinson tells us that this little fly "interposed." That means, "came between two things."
  • It’s an important word. It tips us off that this fly is an intruder.
  • By interrupting the calm of the moment, it changes the course of the poem. Before we were thinking about calm, spiritual, somber things. Now we have to think about a grubby little fly.

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