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After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes

Decent Essays
Emily Dickinson effectively captures human suffering in its rawest form. In comparison to her other works, Dickinson’s “After Great Pain, a Formal Feeling Comes” may be her most discomforting work. The piece is dismaying in that it forces the reader to unwrap our darkest emotions: sadness, anguish, and anxiety. While other poets speak of the joys of love or the finality of death, Dickinson unravels the emotional wounds inflicted upon humanity by grief, heartache, and loss. In the piece, Dickinson painstakingly takes the reader through the process of dealing with our often ignored emotions.
The beginning of “After a Great Pain” features jarring iambic pentameter, “After great pain, a formal feeling comes” (1) as well as strong alliterative “f” sounds that transform the poem into a violently erratic hymn that is suddenly halted by the end-stopped line. In feeling “formal”, humans will still feel “great pain” yet attempt to hide their pain. In the process of hiding our pain from others, the “Nerves sit ceremonious like tombs
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According to Dickinson, the “stiff Heart questions ‘was it He that bore’” (3) “‘And yesterday, or centuries before?’ (4). The multiple “s” sounds and rhyming scheme add a dismal singsong symphony to the last few lines of the stanza. The gloominess within the first stanza is intensified as the heart wonders if such an immense pain existed “yesterday” or “centuries before.” Similarly to a person who is grieving a loss, the heart has lost all sense of time. A lack of awareness only prolongs the pain. Since Dickinson’s family practiced Calvinism (Emily Dickinson and the Church), she probably wondered if Jesus Christ went through the emotional agony that can decimate human tenacity, hence the capitalization of “He” in line three. After all, Christ allows the numb soul to feel less lonely as Jesus suffered the most painful ordeal of all, his
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