If This Is "Fading", Emily Dickinson: Summary & Analysis

"IF THIS IS 'FADING'" by Emily Dickinson reflects the speaker's contemplation of mortality and the transitions that accompany it. The poem explores the concepts of fading, dying, and sleep through vivid imagery and emotional depth. Dickinson uses playful language and vivid metaphors to capture the various stages of life's inevitable progression. The poem raises questions about the nature of these transitions and the speaker's attitude towards them.

IF THIS IS 'FADING'

If this is "fading"
Oh let me immediately "fade"!
If this is "dying"
Bury me, in such a shroud of red!
If this is "sleep,"
On such a night
How proud to shut the eye!
Good Evening, gentle Fellow men!
Peacock presumes to die!

Summary

"IF THIS IS 'FADING'" delves into the themes of mortality, transition, and acceptance. The poem contemplates the stages of fading, dying, and sleep, using vivid metaphors and emotional language. The speaker expresses a desire to embrace these transitions with a sense of pride and immediacy. The playful and thought-provoking language underscores the profound nature of life's inevitable progression.

Critical Analysis

The poem opens with the phrase "If this is 'fading,'" suggesting a contemplation of a transitional state. The word "fade" implies a gradual loss of vitality or visibility. The speaker's immediate desire to "fade" could reflect an acceptance of the natural progression of life and the desire to embrace it wholeheartedly.

In the second stanza, the speaker considers the concept of "dying." The mention of a "shroud of red" evokes imagery of passion, intensity, and perhaps even a celebratory departure. The color red contrasts with traditional funeral imagery, suggesting a unique and vibrant approach to death.

The third stanza introduces the idea of "sleep" and how it is perceived on a certain night. The speaker describes it as a proud act to close one's eyes, implying a sense of contentment and surrender to the natural rhythm of life.

The final stanza adds a whimsical touch to the poem. The speaker addresses "gentle Fellow men" and likens themselves to a "Peacock" that "presumes to die." The metaphor of the peacock could symbolize pride, beauty, and even a sense of theatricality in facing mortality.

Themes

  • Mortality and Transition: The poem delves into the themes of mortality and transition, exploring the stages of fading, dying, and sleep as natural aspects of life's progression.
  • Acceptance and Pride: The poem conveys a sense of acceptance and pride in facing life's transitions, suggesting a willingness to embrace fading, dying, and sleep with dignity.
  • Playfulness and Whimsy: The poem employs playful language and whimsical imagery to explore profound themes, adding a touch of lightness to the contemplation of mortality.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Acceptance: The speaker's attitude reflects a sense of acceptance towards the inevitability of fading, dying, and sleep.
  • Pride: The speaker's use of the word "proud" suggests a positive and dignified attitude towards the act of closing one's eyes in sleep or facing death.
  • Playfulness: The whimsical imagery and metaphors convey a sense of playfulness and creativity in the contemplation of mortality.

Literary Devices

  • Metaphor: The poem employs metaphors to explore the concepts of fading, dying, and sleep, using imaginative language to convey deeper meanings.
  • Imagery: The poem uses vivid imagery to evoke sensory and emotional responses, enhancing the reader's engagement with the themes.

Discussion Question

How does the speaker's use of metaphors and playful language contribute to the contemplation of fading, dying, and sleep? How does the poem's tone evolve from one stanza to another, and how does this contribute to the overall message?

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