When Death Comes
by Mary Oliver
Turning from Death to Life
For our speaker, it's important to not only observe and think about life and death, but to make a conscious effort to live in the way she has determined is best. By changing her approach, she turns from fear toward courage and amazement; she takes the moment of death and turns it into a meditation on the way she wants to live.
- Line 10: Our speaker poses a rhetorical question which opens up the possibilities in death. By using a question instead of a statement (and especially a question whose answer can't be known), she leaves the door as wide open as possible.
- Line 10: Referring to death as "that cottage of darkness" is a transformation through metaphor. It makes death a place, and begins the process of turning our conventional notions of death on their head.
- Lines 11-12: Our speaker uses the enjambment (the line break) to create a brief pause so that for a moment, until our eyes can move over to the beginning of the next line, we consider the phrase "Therefore I look upon everything" by itself. We think this is important, since this poem is all about observation, curiosity, and being open to amazement.
- Lines 11, 13: The repetition of the phrase "I look upon" is a use of anaphora, which helps put a greater emphasis on the act of observation, and the perspective that our speaker takes toward the world.