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When Death Comes

When Death Comes


by Mary Oliver

Stanza 4 Summary

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

Lines 9-10

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

  • Finally we find out what happens when death comes: our speaker wants die with a sense of curiosity, open to what might happen in death, or after it. She gives death an image: a cottage of darkness.
  • It doesn't sound too strange to want to meet death without a lot of fear, but our speaker take it a step further. She wants to go with her eyes open (so to speak) and see what there is to see.
  • By giving death a place – a cottage – she's playing with our ideas of death. Normally we think it's an event, or an ending. But she gives it a location (and not a conventional one like heaven or hell), which suggests we go on existing.
  • For our speaker, death isn't an end, it's a transition – like walking through a door and into a cottage. That doesn't sound so scary. Cottages are usually comfy, homey places. It's not like walking into a castle or dungeon.
  • The darkness could also signify the unknown.
  • For our speaker, though, the unknown doesn't seem to be a source of terror. Actually the opposite: a source of wonder and possibility.

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