I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—

by Emily Dickinson

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Analyze "I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—" and "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall." How can the poem be read as a more concise version of the short story? Which do you find to be more effective? What argument do the poems make about conventional Christian belief?

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Both Dickinson’s poem and Porter’s story foreground the banality of death. But that is not to say the meaning of these pieces is that death does not matter. Porter and Dickinson are concerned with the mundane realities of life continuing around a person experiencing their final moments. This juxtaposition of the mundane and the drama of death for the individual experiencing it is key when analyzing both of these works.

One could view the poem as a condensed version of the story if, for instance, the single detail of the fly buzzing is read as representing all of the mundane details in “Granny Weatherall.” Dickinson writes, “signed away what portion of me be assignable,” which echoes Granny’s chain of thought concerning her property and her children.

Both the poem and the story challenge the traditional, romantic view of death found in conventional Christianity. For example, Granny “blows out the light” rather than walks into it. There is a total absence of religious comfort, and the prospect of an afterlife in heaven seems ridiculous in the context of both of these works.

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