Study Guide

There's been a Death, in the Opposite House Setting

By Emily Dickinson

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Where did it happen? Right across the way.

When did it happen? Today.

Death in the opposite house: pass it on.

Everybody else in this poem might be running this way and that, but the speaker and the poem are fixed in time and space. You wake up one morning, or you don't. That's life, and, as it just so happens, that's also death. In the span of a very present "now", we can assume synched up with the poet's life (mid 1800s), we get periodic dispatches from a living breathing webcam.

Each new increment of the day is duly noted, as the scene progresses. At a window, across from a house in which the corpse lies, the speaker has a birds eye view of the sighs and signs the house gives off. It doesn't take much brains, just intuition, and you too can understand the homely "news" of this country town. Pretty soon everyone will be in on the gossip anyways.

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