“I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” Prompt 2 response

Dickinson is portraying a speaker who is insane. This is seen starting from the first line of the poem “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain”(1). The speaker could have said it felt like a funeral but instead states what he/she actually felt, not imagined. This is psychotic; people do not feel things in their brain. People feel migraines, which I think, could be what the speaker was referring to; it hurt so badly that he/she felt a funeral. Funerals indicate death and the speaker may have wanted to die from the pain of the migraine.

Going along with the interpretation that the speaker is crazy and that the speaker is experiencing a migraine of some sort, I look at lines 7-8. “Kept beating- beating – till I thought My mind was going numb-”. The Beating can be that pounding experience it feels like when someone is having a migraine and the terrible feeling of your mind going numb. That must hurt and someone experiencing numbness cannot feel or think normally.

When I read line 11 “With those same boots of Lead, again,” It makes me think of a crazy person who constantly hears voices talking to them inside their head. The word “again” exhibits that this is not the first time the speaker went crazy, this has happened before. Here we see the use of ambiguity, since its unclear, it could be the boots of lead is an example the speakers using to explain the pain he/she feels in his/her head from the migraines.

“Wrecked, solitary here-”(16) the speaker is lost in his/her own world. The speaker is “wrecked”- destroyed the speakers mind is completely crazy and does not even know where he/she is. Then the word “solitary” which means existing alone- crazy people are in their own world- unaware of their surroundings. The speaker says “here”- but where exactly is here? People in a dysfunctional state, when they feel wrecked and in solitude don’t know where they are.

The last stanza is where the speaker hits rock bottom. The last three lines say “And I dropped down, and down And hit a World, at every plunge, And finished knowing – then-”. Wow what just happened? Ok so dropped “down and down” sounds like the speaker is going into a dark hole of nothing forever. This last stanza sounds like the speaker is going into ultimate madness “at every plunge” you can feel the speaker going deeper and deeper. This is similar to a person who gets sick and then sicker and sicker till they die, they plunge deeper and deeper, this goes with the poem taking place at a funeral in the speakers brain. “And finished knowing – then-” this is it it’s over the speaker finished knowing and doesn’t know anything- he/she is crazy and has no reasoning anymore.

Based on the state I am accusing the speaker of being in, makes the speaker an unreliable narrator. The narrator is telling a story in first person about when he/she felt a funeral in his/her brain. Being that the speaker is mad it is unclear about what’s happening to him/her. So I read it a few times and tried to get the clues into what was going on.

1)Do you agree or disagree with me that the speaker is insane? what makes you think so.

2) Why do you think Dickinson choose a funeral as a location to display this speaker’s madness?

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6 Responses to “I felt a Funeral, in my Brain” Prompt 2 response

  1. Conor Mcguire says:

    upon first reading this i was very puzzled and still quite am as i can state with no sense of certainty i have grasped this poem. However, i feel as though i can say with some sense of confidence that the speaker in the poem is not crazy. As to why she chose a funeral i believe it is because being a lyric poet she feels that this word “funeral” best captures the sensation or emotion she is trying to convey. What i believe Dickinson is describing is an existential crisis,pondering of her own mortality, and ultimately what that encompasses. There are no mourners pacing back and forth in here brain, only her thoughts about her own death which haunt her like a seemingly forever beating drum. The poems ending is where i believe this existential crisis is most explicit as i believe this breaking “plank in reason” triggers her to question her own life and what it means up until shes reached a point of “knowing”. However, through her questioning she may reach some level of comfort, yet i doubt any answers as the last “-then-” suggests.

  2. Max Richter says:

    This whole time I thought that this speaker was at her own funeral and was describing the sequences that occur when going from this life to the next. She was at her funeral and the speaker can sense that mourners were passing by his body. The speaker first speaks of the physical things happening around her, then in the line “Then Space- began to toll”, the transformation from this world to the next begins. The funeral wasn’t mentioned again. Bella’s interpretation of the poem is really intriguing though because after reading it a few times, there does seem to be constant repetition which is common for insane people. The mourners moving back and forth, the drums, the bell. It seems that there surely is a possibility the speaker is after all, crazy.

  3. Steven says:

    I like the idea of the speaker being crazy, it is an interesting interpretation. I interpreted this poem as someone who is actually at a funeral. I felt that the sadness made the speaker space out so that her body is there but her mind is drifting, as students we know this experience well. All of the sensory ideas she refers to are her senses gathering information, she just insn’t focused on them. Then, at the end, she broke out of her trance, “going down,” and “hit a world” of where she really was. Here her emotions got the better of her and could no longer think or remember the events, “finished knowing.” This is how i understood the poem, but the psychotic speaker seems more reasonable for a poet like Dickinson.

  4. Debra Zarny says:

    The funeral scene is an interesting choice as a way to display one’s madness. With a funeral scene, there can be two descriptions of madness: one seen from the person who has died and one seen from the people that have attended the funeral. The speaker discusses how she hears “A Service, like a Drum— kept beating-beating” and someone with “Boots of Led” stomp across the floor as he lifts a box. These noises and actions seem to annoy her and her reaction to them is seen from her reply “My Mind was going numb,” which can be an indication of how the speaker feels about her madness. A second description can be seen from the attendees of the funeral as well. They must be upset and possibly angered by her death, which is probably what the speaker is feeling.

  5. When I first read “I felt a Funeral in my Brain” I would have agreed that the narrator must be crazy, but, on my second time reading it I stating thinking that maybe the poem was about thought. As the poem starts with the funeral that is going on inside the speaker’s brain, I thought it may be a reference to something other than insanity. Dickinson uses many references to brain and thoughts; she uses words such as brain (1), sense (4), and thought (7). In the first stanza she speaks of “mourners… treading- treading- till it seemed that sense was breaking through” (2-4). This could be speaking about the thoughts that are going back and forth in the speakers’ mind, accepting some while rejecting others, until sense breaks through. In the last stanza the narrator seems to have reached a low point in his or her thoughts as they “dropped down, and down” (18) and “at every plunge” (19) lost a world of knowledge until they felt that everything they thought they knew may have not been true, “and Finished knowing- then-” (20).

  6. I found it interesting that Bella said that it sounds like the speaker had a migraine, because the first thing that I wrote in my annotations for this poem was “sounds like she has a migraine”. I also agree with the rest of what Bella said, that the numbness is connected to the migraine, and the word “again” makes it sound like she’s had this feeling before. One thing I found interesting about the last line was that the poem really makes the reader feel like they’re in a casket with the speaker, being lowered down into the ground. The poem ends very abruptly in middle of a thought, with “and Finished knowing – then – “ which makes it sound like the speaker is speaking from her casket, while it’s being lowered, and all of a sudden it’s buried in the ground, and you can’t hear her finish the rest of her thought.

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