Study Guide

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

By Emily Dickinson

The Home

Nobody knows what goes on behind closed doors, or do they? Sure, Dickinson wasn't the shut-in people think she was, but she was certainly closely identified with the Homestead—the house where she lived in Amherst Massachusetts—and with houses in general.

In, "There's been a Death, in the Opposite House," the house helps to define the life within and outside the protective walls that separate one from others. It also can stand in for the people who live (or die) there. It's the earthly or material structure that is left behind when the spirit moves on or out. In this poem, it reveals the activities surrounding the death of a neighbor, but does so only partially. There's more to the event going on behind closed doors.

Questions About The Home

  1. Why is the house described but not the corpse? Why do we get to know who comes and goes after the death, but not, you know, who actually died?
  2. Who lived in this house? Can you tell? Who lives there now? What kind of folks are these? 
  3. Why doesn't the speaker enter his neighbor's house? 
  4. How is a window like a pod? Weird question, we know, but we're really asking.

Chew on This

The house is numb because it is inanimate. Duh.

The house is numb only on the façade, the face it shows the public. This house has all kinds of feels, yo.

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