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Analysis of ‘a Bird Came Down the Walk’ by Emily Dickinson

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    In ‘A Bird came down the Walk-‘, nature is presented in various ways. Dickinson experiences the benevolence within nature. This contrasts with the cruel and unmerciful aspects of nature that are also evident in the poem. The narrator feels a sense of belonging with nature as she observes in awe. However, at times, she feels alienated due to the differences between animals and humans. Nature is initially presented as a brutal force. Dickinson creates vivid imagery of an ‘Angleworm’ being bitten ‘in halves’ by the bird.

    The bird’s basic need for sustenance takes priority over its other instincts, causing it to behave mercilessly towards its prey. Similarly, in ‘A Narrow Fellow in the Grass’, the snake is portrayed as a malevolent character. The fear of being ‘zero at the bone’ or paralysed by its venom presents nature as a threatening, ominous force. This demonstrates the brutality of the natural world through predator-prey relationships, driven by the desire to survive. Dickinson identifies this as the cruel and evil aspect of nature. The beauty of nature is also evident in this poem.

    The final two stanzas describe the bird flying away. This sight is ‘softer’ or more relaxing than the ‘oars’ that ‘divide’ the ocean. As the comparative ‘softer’ is used, it suggests that the natural sight of a bird flying is more beautiful than boat oars that create gentle ripples in the water. This implies natural beauty surpasses manmade beauty, as oars and boats are manmade. Use of enjambment creates a relaxed tone. This harmonises with the water effect of the ‘ocean’ and the tranquil image of a bird flying away, which supports the idea of nature being beautiful.

    Similarly, in ‘A Narrow Fellow in the Grass’, the snake ‘divides’ the grass like ‘a comb’. The effect of this simile is that it creates a gentle, harmless image. This also suggests that nature possesses tranquil and beautiful qualities. The divisions within nature are present in the poem. Dickinson underlines the differences between human and animal behaviour. For example, the bird refuses the ‘crumb’ and lets a beetle ‘pass’. This suggests that animal behaviour is simplistic and moderate. It involves the avoidance of excess or extremes. As the bird is satisfied after preying on the ‘Angleworm’, it avoids the beetle and the crumb.

    This type of behaviour stands in stark contrast with the immoderate nature of human beings. In ‘This World is not Conclusion’ and ‘Because I could not stop for Death’, Dickinson implies that human beings are too feeble minded to understand the concepts ‘immortality’ and ‘eternity’ yet the human desire to ‘know’ is overwhelming and has no limits. This supports the idea that human beings constantly want more than what they have, whereas animals focus on the basic needs for survival. This separates animals from humans in nature. There are also psychological differences between humans and animals.

    Animals live instinctively. For example, the bird ‘stirs its head’ as it is ‘cautious’ of being preyed on. Its focus is on survival. Human beings on the other hand, have far more demanding needs. These include the emotional, moral and psychological needs that animals do not call for. When these needs are not met, the human mind begins to deteriorate. Evidence of this is shown in ‘One need not be a Chamber– to be Haunted-‘ where the mind is metaphorically ‘haunted’ as a result of the protagonists’ psychological needs being neglected. This further separates the animals from humans.

    Dickinson feels as though she is one with nature. Dickinson refers to the ‘Angleworm’ as ‘fellow’. The colloquial and affectionate term implies that she is a part of the nature that surrounds her. It also suggests that she recognises the Angleworm and the snake in ‘A Narrow…’ as ‘fellow’ creatures. In ‘A Narrow…’ animals are personified as ‘nature’s other people’. This suggests that Dickinson feels a part of nature, as it consists of humans (her people) and animals and plants, the ‘other’ people. Although they are different in behaviour and characteristics, they are the components of the natural world.

    This creates a sense of belonging for the protagonist. The bird ‘came down’ the Walk and politely ‘let[s] a Beetle pass’. This personifies nature as these are civilised actions usually associated with human behaviour. This implies that Dickinson feels a part of nature as she notices its relatable human qualities. Death is presented as a natural process. Dickinson acknowledges that within nature, death is necessary. Although she expresses sympathy for the angleworm, who is eaten ‘raw’ by the bird, she realises the significance of its death. Tertiary and secondary consumers rely on other animals as food sources.

    This indicates that death is vital as it maintains a balance within nature. In ‘The last Night that She lived’, nature is ‘Italicised’ by death. This proves that everything organic dies and so after seeing something or someone die, nature is much more appreciated. This is because death is a natural cause that is inevitable. In this poem, Dickinson presents nature as beautiful, tranquil and civil as well as its sinister, dangerous and brutal. She discusses belonging to nature whilst sometimes feeling isolated. Finally, she suggests the idea of death being necessary within nature.

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    Analysis of ‘a Bird Came Down the Walk’ by Emily Dickinson. (2017, Jan 21). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/analysis-of-a-bird-came-down-the-walk-by-emily-dickinson/

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