Study Guide

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain Setting

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In at least one way, Dickinson poems are like a Looney Toons cartoon: anything can happen. You could be walking down the street, and a piano suddenly falls on your head. You're nestled in a coffin, and suddenly you're falling through the universe.

The poem opens in a church or a funeral parlor. A bunch of anonymous, somber people are pacing around. These mourners are shadowy people and we never see them directly. We hear their footsteps above us. They decided to wear their lead boots this morning, which doesn't seem especially thoughtful. Near the middle of the poem, the setting begins to shift when we discover that the wood floor is actually the speaker's soul.

At first it seemed like we were in a cramped, stuffy room, but now we're just a tiny dot in "Space." We're in the dark cavity of an enormous, vibrating bell. The deep, bass sound of the bell is directed right at us.

The funeral is over and we're alone. We're "wrecked" on an island with Silence, but it's not a pleasant tropical island with coconuts and helper-monkeys; it's an island in the deep black of space. Our island may or may not be a coffin.

Crack. Crack. Uh-oh.

The wood floor breaks, and we feel that familiar queasiness in our stomachs: we're falling, fast. On the way down to who-knows-where, we crash into one "World" after another. By the end of the poem, we don't know where we're going, or even what time it is.

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