I felt a Funeral, in my Brain Questions and Answers
by Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain book cover
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What is a theme present in "I Felt a Funeral in my Brain" by Emily Dickinson?  

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A theme of this poem is mental suffering. The image of a funeral taking place in one's brain is an image of mental trauma. In this poem, the narrator is not simply imagining a funeral that she is viewing and hearing from a distance: it feels, literally, as if a funeral is occurring in her head, on her brain. The mourners seem to be treading on her brain, so steadily it appears for a moment as if sense, or logic, might take hold. But then auditory senses come to predominate in stanza two and she hears a drum beating in her brain until she feels numb. In stanza three people are carrying a coffin across her "soul," tramping her soul with boots of lead. The reader can experience the heaviness she feels, as if both a coffin and lead were lying on her spirit. In the next stanza she hears a bell and feels solitary and silent as it rings inside her head. In the final stanza, "a plank" in her reason breaks, which is no wonder after all the drumming, tramping, stamping lead boots and ringing bells, and she plunges downward. The poem ends in midstream, on the word "then," followed by a dash, leaving the reader to imagine that she doesn't have words to express the end point of her suffering.

Suffering can seem as the poem describes it: heavy, leaden, ringing, soul tramping, all encompassing, lonely. It can break down your reasonable defenses and leave you feeling despairing and unmoored. Dickinson captures suffering relentlessly in this poem, perhaps causing the reader to contemplate how bad it can feel even if it is only "in" the brain or soul. 

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Rebecca Hope eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Your question implies that a literary work can have more than one theme, and that is correct. Any theme that is consistent with the true meaning of the text, that is, can be supported by evidence from the text without any contradiction from the text, is a...

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