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“There’s Been a Death, In the Opposite House”: Critical Detailed Analysis And Summary

The poet of “There’s been a death, in the opposite house”, Emily Dickinson is a notable figure in American poetry and is referred to as a prolific writer who was born on December 10, 1830, in Amherst, U.S, and died in the year 1886. She always had a strong connection with her community.

This poem first appeared for printing after her death like most of her other works in A Collection of Posthumous in 1896. Emily Dickinson in this poem successfully explores the theme of death and community. She incorporates a male speaker in the poem and predicts the actions that are being taken in a small town after a person’s death.

There’s Been a Death, In the Opposite House: Summary

In the poem “There’s Been a Death, In the Opposite House”, Emily Dickinson is portraying a bleak landscape with a constant sensation of dejection hovering due to a person’s death. She could clearly address an empty demeanour that prevailed in front of that house after mourning.

The doctor leaves the carriage with a face of defeat. When a war takes place, the King prepares himself to fight with his warriors ensuring the safety of his countrymen and his ministers. The only motive is to attain victory. Similarly, a doctor’s notion pertains to saving his patient but when he fails to conquer the battle he moves out of the carriage with a sense of subjugation.

The hubbub of the neighbours is constantly found moving in and out of the door. As soon as the windows are unlatched the flies pave their way ‘mechanically’ as a seed pericarp. Suddenly a mattress was thrown out of the door and initially, small kids scamper fast to find out whether the person has died on that mattress.

A priest initiated the next scene. He paved his way inside the residence with such a disclaimer as if he owned the entire place amidst its dwellers of grieving along with the small boys who scattered alongside the street. One by one the hat makers emerge following the mortician whose work is to take charge of the incident to proceed with the funeral.

Soon the procession will arise. The usual line of deliverance all decorated in fancy cord could be seen. Such descriptions are just a prediction of whatever the speaker could visualize of the house from his residence.

While all the news is guessed and judgments are considered to be appropriate, in a small town probably the exact person fails to receive time to speak out the actual tale. While reading we will be able to encounter the bleeding of emotion that merges its existence automatically with the norms.

In the poem “There’s Been a Death In, The Opposite House” we find Emily Dickinson exploring various rituals performed after death in a small town. She witnesses enormous hustles and bustles which take place surrounding a dead body in a particular residence located across the lane.

The poem addresses that all the people surrounding the dead are trying their best to avoid an unavoidable circumstance. We find the speaker applying euphemism to describe the job of an undertaker which is often uncomfortable to follow.

There’s Been a Death, In the Opposite House: Theme of the Poem  

The Inexorability of Death

 In this poem, death is preternatural but ordinary to look at. The speaker of the poem finds the people exhausted in the calculation of the aftermath of a death in the house situated across the lane. He elaborates on everything. Starting from the departure of the doctor with a betrayed face to the procession of the funeral “Dark Parade”.

The author is trying to portray a calculation stretching a cycle of the clock where death comes to every person and such rituals are unavoidable. Thus, the norms surrounding death are familiar to all and can be easily predicted.

But this is not easily accepted by the commoners, even after knowing the ideology which is an inevitable part of one’s existence. The speaker of the poem by observing the postmodern routine can easily predict that “There’s been a Death, in the Opposite House”.

The Doctor got replaced by Ministers and similarly, the speaker could assume every occurrence beginning with a formulation of tassels and ending with the coaches of the procession. The speaker, of the poem as he lived in a 19th-century town where death was an ordinary event with all its framed rituals.

Speaker was so accustomed to all the events which were taking place that nothing seemed to be disturbing for him and undoubtedly, he could predict one after the other ritual.

The small kids found hurrying past to speculate whether the mattress thrown away was used by the person who is lying dead. Even the speaker used to wonder the same when he was a child. Describing the sensations of the children he says how uncanny a body of lifeless feels.

The job of a mortician is horrific to explain. Similarly, the hustles of such a procession fail it to make an ordinary event. Death is an unavoidable circumstance that happens every day but that does not make it a pleasant ceremony. The conventional rituals that a person generally undertakes only suggest death’s unbearable consequences.

There’s Been a Death, In the Opposite House: Structure

The poem is comprised of six stanzas which have been separated into four sets by the author referring it to as quatrains. The rhyme scheme that has been applied in the poem is ABCD, which portrays that these quatrains appear to be loose.

Part of the poem uses half-rhymes instead of using complete rhymes. Example- ‘by’ and ‘boy’ are perfect examples of half rhyme schemes. They are well known as partial rhyme which appears under concern with the continuous repetition of consonance. Either the sounds of vowels or consonants are used repetitively within a line or in multiple sentences of verse.

Emily Dickinson tends to move in a back-and-forth direction between the iambic trimeter which includes two beats in each line comprising of three sets and the iambic pentameter refers to four sets comprising of two beats in each line.

There’s Been a Death, In the Opposite House: Literary Devices

In the poem “There’s been a Death, In the Opposite House”, Emily Dickinson uses various literary devices but is limited to capitalization and personification. A euphemism has the capability to erase or abolish something inadequate. In the poem, the speaker uses “appalling trade” to elaborate on the job of the undertaker.

Formulation of personification undergoes when a poet permeates an object with the characteristics of a woman. When the speaker in the first stanza describes the avenue to have a ‘numb look’, he is trying to induce feelings of death onto the buildings. We also find Dickinson to possess an infrequent capitalization.

The words she chose to capitalize were most important and meaningful. The main motive behind capitalizing on certain words is to gain the attention of readers.

There’s Been a Death, In the Opposite House: Analysis

In the poem There’s been a Death, In the Opposite House” by Emily Dickinson, she rambles on several themes like zeal and community. Emily Dickinson has always maintained a deep connection with the community she lived in. The speaker of the poem directly emphasizes the line “There’s been a Death, In the Opposite House” which was later considered to be the title.

It is informing the readers that someone has passed away and that person used to live in a residence just across the lane from where the speaker is witnessing the entire scenario and his predictions are on. The environment had a pale look showcasing the discomfort to accept such an unavoidable circumstance.

The introduction of personification has been performed very carefully which is meant to communicate with a huge aspect of the atmosphere when a loss is undergone. The speaker tends to encounter a change in the ecstatic milieu. All shine of the nature was enclosed with a calm and serene atmosphere.

The word ‘always’ at the end of the stanza is used to rhyme it with the word ‘Today’. The dash at the end ‘always—’ seems as if the word ‘always’ is accumulating in halfway and it is just similar to that of always.

In the second stanza, the hubbub of the neighbours could be heard which is continuously moving in and out of the house. He is standing across the lane or probably witnessing everything from his residence taking a detailed note of what is being done with a prediction of what may happen next. Just like a ‘pod,’ he found the unlatching of the windows. The usage of simile distempers the window as organized, automated, and ‘Abrupt’.

The speaker is quite close to the other apartment to apprehend and observe the performance of his neighbours. He can both look at and hear what’s going on in their lives without any hindrance. He notices one of the actions of his neighbours in the third stanza, who throws a futon away from the window and the small kids of his neighbourhood are running towards it to find whether it has been used by the person who is already dead.

The movements of those children enabled the speaker to predict that it might have some relation to death. In the third line, the speaker uses ‘it’ to provide a description of the deceased person. The speaker’s perception in the next line is quite striking and unusual. He says that he is a boy and during his childhood days even he used to run after such thrown-away mattresses to find out whether it is used by the person who is dead like the other kids in his neighbourhood.

This is also a clear revelation that the speaker of the poem is no longer a child.  One by one the minister goes inside the residence ‘stiffly’ ready to invigorate himself for the scenery he is going to witness inside. He acts in such a way as if he is the owner of the house. His way of carrying himself suggests to the readers that there is nothing more important than him present over there. Even he possesses the power to keep the children under his control.

Emily Dickinson in the very beginning of the fifth stanza uses alliteration stating about the visitors and explains the man’s “Appalling Trade”. She uses euphemisms and explains them to readers efficiently. Initially, it helps the readers to understand that the speaker is trying to explain the job of the undertaker who has arrived to take the entire measure of the residence.

We find the doctor moving out of the house with a sense of betrayal continuously fighting with his intellect to accept his defeat.  In the concluding stanza of “There’s Been a Death, in the Opposite House” the speaker describes the procession referred to as the “Dark Parade” in the poem. Cars and tassels are found which is quite common in such a ceremony.

The speaker also adds that all of these are simple things and in a small town every ritual takes place in a similar ritualistic pattern. Thus, it is quite easier for the speaker to predict accurately.


What is the theme of the poem ‘There’s been a Death, In the Opposite House‘ by Emily Dickinson?

In the poem “There’s been a Death, In the Opposite House”, Emily Dickinson nurtures a number of themes including death and coterie. Dickinson successfully introduces a male speaker in the poem to examine the actions taken by a small town after a death.

In the poem ‘There’s been a Death, In the Opposite House‘ why are so many dashes present?

The dash provided by Emily Dickinson gives a feeling of immediacy. All the words like ‘Today’, the “Opposite House” are capitalized by Dickinson in the poem to highlight the importance of such words in the poem and also to gain the attention of the readers.

How does the speaker create the tone of the poem?

The tone of the poem is created with the help of the vocabulary, the usage of syntax along with its application of syntax language. Even while reading we can find the irregularity of a sentence. It is often described as ‘mood’.