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Analysis of Language, Imagery, and Diction of Dickinson’s Poetry

Language, Imagery, and Diction in Emily Dickinson’s Because I could not stop for Death, A narrow Fellow in the Grass, and I felt a Funeral in my Brain

All good poets use the basic literary techniques of figurative language, imagery, and diction in their poems. However, only great poets use these techniques to transmit an experience to the reader; Emily Dickinson was one these poets. She used these techniques to bring the reader a new perception of life, and to widen and sharpen the readers’ experiences.

Dickinson’s poetry strongly affects the minds of her readers because she uses many forms of figurative language, such as, irony, personification, paradox, and similes. For example, in her poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” Dickinson writes “Because I could not stop for Death / He kindly stopped for me- / The Carriage held but just Ourselves- / And Immortality.” (Lines 1-4) In this passage, Dickinson uses two forms of figurative language; personification and irony. She ironically portrays Death as a gentleman by giving him human characteristics and allowing him to “stop” his carriage for both her and Immortality. In addition, in her poem “Much Madness is Divinest Sense,” she writes “Much Madness is divinest Sense- / Much Sense-the starkest Madness-” (Lines 1

Psychoanalytic Analysis of Killing the Grubs

Psychoanalytic Analysis of Killing the Grubs

The psychoanalytic approach to an open text enables the reader to establish the difference between the good and the evil, and notice the importance of aggression in the words. The reader can even understand the characters’ motives, which in turn help the reader become part of the story. “According to the Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature the psychoanalytic approach is “…a valuable tool in understanding not only literature but human nature and their individual selves as well ” (Guerin 156).” The reader is able to see the experiences of one character and predict how he/she will react to their environment.

These psychoanalytic ideas are found in Eleanor Wilner’s poem “Killing the Grubs” because of its interpretation of the two contrasting minds; the id and the superego (Sigmund Freud’s theories), the use of phallic and yonic symbolism, and the theme of death and destruction. The id and superego are two of the most important concepts in Freud’s psychoanalytic approach.

In the poem “Killing the Grubs”, the little bugs play the part of the antagonist while the “she” in the poem acts as the main character. “She” is the one who first experiences the good-natured, cautious superego, and then the aggressive, out of control id. The reader detects the main character’s superego when Eleanor Wilner writes, “I do not understand, for nothing in the Bible…has anything to say about the grubs, ” (3-6). The woman in the poem also presents her first impression of the bugs when she describes them as, “animate and gray,” (Wilner 8-9). This description tends to be a little on the soft side, since the woman has not yet experienced her hatred towards them. The superego now takes a …

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…ver fully disappear. Death for the bugs is inevitable, but the worries and troubles they leave behind are worse than the creatures themselves. To explain this Wilner writes, “They are so obvious a sign of what we cannot see, of what devours us, what gnaws there now, and at the roots – my god!” (24-27). Exterminating the bugs is of great importance to the woman, but even more so is the destruction of their memory.

The psychoanalytic approach is only one way of dissecting an open text such as “Killing the Grubs”, but it is one of the best ways to determine an individual’s actions and how he/she relates to their surrounding environment. Tools such as Freud’s theories of the id and superego, phallic and yonic symbolism, and the theme of death and destruction all help the reader interact with the characters and grasp the meaning of the psychoanalytic approach.

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