Study Guide

There's been a Death, in the Opposite House Sound Check

By Emily Dickinson

Sound Check

This little ditty reads like a telegraph dispatch from a witness at the frontline, with its starts and stops marked by those famous dashes, the plain facts and their descriptions. At the beginning of each line, the speaker lists a noun, and then goes on to show the action associated with it:

The Neighbors rustle in and out —
The Doctor — drives away —
A Window opens like a Pod
(5-7)

Is the poet attempting to make her lines seem as numb as she says the house looks (3-4)? For a poem, this isn't very poetic, is it? Where's the feeling? Each line is just a blunt statement, following a similar form: subject verb, subject verb, subject verb. As if everything is happening with a numb, mechanical motion. Blah, then blah.

In other words, the sound here is quiet, respectful, subdued. Which makes a certain amount of sense, given the fact that it's all about a neighbor's death. But there's also a nearly scientific precision and plainness to the words and their rhythms. You'd be forgiven if a little chill runs down your spine as you read.

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