Study Guide

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

By Emily Dickinson

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Pardon us a rousing course of "Duh." Death's in the title of "There's been a Death, in the Opposite House" (or the first line as it were), which means it's a VIT (Very Important Theme). Here's our take:

If Death was a dialogue for Dickinson, she obviously got the last word. This poem is case in point. As an unmarried woman, before she kept herself mostly away from society, she was called upon to sit by numerous deathbeds. The culture of her day made sure that those dying were never alone. Somebody was always there to keep a vigil.

Many of Dickinson's poems have that feeling, that patience, of watching the stages of a life on its way to, well, not life. This poem comes in after the death has happened for the post mortem. Think of the speaker in this poem as the reporter for the Amherst Picayune, recording all the traffic and activities from his place by the window. Death comes to us all, maybe, but for now it's viewed from that distance.

Questions About Death

  1. How different is the speaker from when he was a boy? How have his views of death changed? And why?
  2. Why is the house where someone is dead considered numb? Shouldn't it be upset or something? (Yeah, we know houses don't usually have feelings, but this is a poem, Shmoopers.)
  3. If the minister doesn't own the mourners, who, or what, does?
  4. What's the speaker's attitude about "the Dark Parade"?

Chew on This

Death makes things of us all.

Death is no big deal. Get over it.

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