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Emily Dickinson: How Illness Shaped Her Writing

1079 words - 5 pages

Emily Dickinson has a characteristic writing style. Dickinson’s use of dashes and “randomly” placed capital letters throughout her work give her a unique style that is contradictory to her time. Many believe that it was her genius that caused this while still others believes it was her illness that contributed to her characteristic writing style. Lyndall Gordon's biography “offers a major revelation: evidence that Dickinson suffered from epilepsy. The author makes her case partly through prescriptions that Dickinson received (the papers still survive) and reinterprets poems such as "I felt a Cleaving in my Mind" to describe the poet's condition. She writes that ‘sickness is a more sensible ...view middle of the document...

Again the emphasis is put on the words “Seam to Seam” (3) as the narrator refers to the split that is trying to be repaired. One can get the image of something that has been torn and needs to be mended. Having events unfold in a characteristic step-by-step fashion that usually occurs to epileptic patients is seen in the line “Sequence ravelled out of Sound” (7). To know that these painful step-by-step experiences are going to occur and the person cannot do anything but anticipate them must be unsettling.
The same use of imagery, diction and symbolism can be seen in “I Felt a Funeral in my Brain”. The “Mourners to and fro” (2) is the pain, the pounding, “treading-treading” (3), can be associated with painful epileptic seizures. The pounding “like a Drum” (6) gives the image of a deep pounding that drums make. Because this occurs in the brain, the reader gets the image of actual pounding in their head. The narrator tells of how the drums “Kept beating-beating” (7). The dash causes the reader to pause in between the double word beating making the sound last longing. All this painful beating causes the “mind” (8) to go “numb-“(8). The dash here also makes the reader pause to let the numbness wash over them. Once the effects of the mind, pounding numbness sinks in, the reader is exposed to another sensation through imagery, “Boots of Lead, again,” (11). The reader gets an image of the heaviness of these boots and that this has happened before because of the use of the comas before and after the word again. Special emphasis is placed on the word “again”. The capitalization of “Boots” and “Lead” (11) also lead to the importance of these words and emphasizes them greater. The reader can imagine the heaviness of the boots and how difficult it would be to move. The speaker talks of the “strange Race” (15) that is occurring between “I, and Silence,” (15). The speaker is describing the battle to retain some semblance of normality. There is a struggle to be normal and not ill. The capitalization of “I” (15) and “Silence” (15) gives each an identity, and...

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