In the poem 'I Heard a Fly Buzz - When I Died', what happens at the end of the poem?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of the poem, the speaker dies.

We can tell the speaker dies at the end of the poem because at the end of the poem the speaker can no longer see.

And then the Windows failed - and then

I could not see to see -

By saying that he could not see, the speaker is saying that he has died.  We know that he is dying, because the title tells us so.  All of the events of a poem describe a deathbed.  The speaker tells us about how he was “willed my Keepsakes.”  He describes the buzzing of the fly in the stillness of the room as everyone is crying.  The fly both seems to disturb the supposed peace of the deathbed and remind us of the everyday nature of death.

We would like to think of death as peaceful, but the fly is a carrion insect.  It reminds us of the disgusting reality of what happens when we die.  When we die, we just die.  Our body decomposes.  A fly is waiting for it.  It is as if the fly, sensing that the end is near, is waiting for the corpse.  The fly lays eggs in the corpse, becoming maggots, and the decomposition begins.  It is not what we want to think of when we are dying.  We want to think of peace and loved ones. 

The poem also reminds us that we can’t take our material possessions with us.  The speaker has willed away “What portion of me be/Assignable.”  It is humbling to be reminded that our lives are reduced to the things we own at the end, as well as the physical corpse.  Both being broken down, taken away bit by bit.  It is almost like both of these images are the last things the dying person is thinking of in the last breath, as his eyes close.

thewanderlust878 | Student

This particular poem is a very powerful one that, on the surface (or when only read once or twice), may seem either lighthearted or slightly confusing. The poem is about an individual who is on their deathbed, either from illness or other means, as they describe what their last moments of life are like. At the end of the poem, the individual dies.

And then the Windows failed-and then 

I could not see-

This is the very end of the poem, as it describes how the individual's world faded to black as they died. 

Below is a great animation done of the poem if you would like a visual interpretation of it. 

Read the study guide:
I heard a Fly buzz—when I died—

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