The effects of pain on the mind and body Essay

This essay has a total of 846 words and 4 pages.

The effects of pain on the mind and body

The Effects of Pain on the Mind and Body


Elements of pain and despair are evident in many works of Emily Dickinson, and are present
in her poem, "After Great Pain, A Formal Feeling Comes-." Dickinson's simple language
draws rich meaning from the use of common words. She uses words associated with the body,
with nature, with the mind, as well with physical death, to shape and articulate its
sensation and significance. She approached her poetry inductively, combining words to
arrive at a conclusion that the pattern of the words suggested. Dickinson's theme of the
experience of pain and grief in this poem are developed through her subtle use of such
elements of poetry as diction, personification, metaphor, and simile.

In this poem Dickinson brings the reader to a place where connotation and diction provide
a foundation for personal thought and insight concerning death, pain and suffering, and
despair. Dickson uses the word "Stiff" in her poem to describe the stiffness of the body
when someone is in great pain, in shock, or is dead (line 3). When someone is experiencing
pain and grief the movements of the body become very "Stiff" and "Wooden" and it is very
hard for someone to move or have any expression at all (3,7). When we think of "Tombs" we
associate that with darkness, desolation, death and separation (2). Dickinson uses the
words "like a stone-" and "Hour of Lead-" to connote the pain and suffering of loss that
is associated with the grave or a tombstone (9,10). In the last line Dickinson uses the
word "Chill-" to connote the coldness of the body when someone is in despair or when
someone is dead (13).

Dickinson uses personification to great effect by giving life like human qualities to the
organs in the body. One example of personification is when she says, "The nerves sit
ceremonious, like Tombs-" (2). The nerves are personified, they "sit ceremonious", which
means; "they are stiff in manner, not warm or relaxed". Dickinson uses this
personification of the nerves to describe to us the physical state of someone that is in
great pain or grief. Next we see, "The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore, / And
Yesterday, or Centuries before?", a personification of the heart (3,4). Stiff is another
definition for formal, which specifically denotes a lack of feeling. The heart can no
longer tell how much time has elapsed between its present condition and when the great
pain occurred.

Metaphors and similes are used throughout this poem to give the reader an understanding of
the nature of pain itself. When "He" is capitalized in western culture it is a reference
to Jesus Christ. When Dickinson says, "was it He, that bore, / And Yesterday, or Centuries
before?", she is comparing the suffering with the pain of the voice of the poem to the
pain of Christ (3,4). The pain of the sufferer is so great that the voice imagines that it
must be like what Christ suffered, and the pain is so immediate for the voice that it must
not have been centuries ago, it must have been only yesterday. Another metaphor is seen
in, "This is the Hour of Lead-". In Dickinson's time coffins were lined with lead. Lead is
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