“Falling” is a long poem that uses the “split line”—a technique innovated by James Dickey—in a block format; its title suggests the poem’s dramatic situation, a flight attendant falling out of an airliner, as well as a metaphor for the human condition. The flight attendant’s fall from the airplane serves as an analogy for an individual’s descent through life, where every moment brings one closer to the time when one will not exist. This process is depicted as an unavoidable progression over which a person has little or no control. The question the poem poses implicitly is: Since death is an inescapable part of the human condition, and there is no certainty of an afterlife, how does one make existence meaningful?
To create the poem, Dickey draws on a newspaper account of a twenty-nine-year-old flight attendant who fell to her death when the emergency door of an airplane accidentally opened. Through a third-person narrator, Dickey imagines her thoughts and sensations as she is swept out of the plane and plunges to her death.
The poem begins by describing the plane flying at night and the flight attendant pinning a blanket over an emergency door that is emitting air. Suddenly, the door blasts open and the flight attendant is sucked out into the night sky. The narrator emphasizes that, at this point, the flight attendant is “Still neat lipsticked stockinged girdled by regulation.” In other words, she is still bound by the...
(The entire section is 574 words.)