Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s 320


Emily Dickinson’s 320 deals with themes of death which is somewhat predictable for Dickinson, but what makes this poem different, is that this poem delves into the competing narratives of religious teachings and her personal instincts. 320 begins with imagery of attractive light but describes it as oppressive and of heft. Here she expresses the heavy weight that the light casts which I interpret as Heavenly imagery. The weight of heaven reflects the weight that death has on her mind (which is often the case for Dickinson). The last line of the stanza says that the light is “Of Cathedral Tunes” and at this point, she is contrasting the Church’s narrative of death and instincts of death. Here, she breaks her rhyme scheme (which is generally ABCB in this poem), reflecting her break from the church’s values. In the following stanza, she elaborates on her personal views of death, claiming that one who dies and goes to heaven with “Heavenly Hurt” (capitalized to imply that its a proper noun since it is religious imagery). Dickinson also claims that faith should be in tandem with soul searching, or “internal difference where Meanings are”. “Meaning” is capitalized here to create a pause for further emphasis as it is elaborated on later. The following stanza discusses her frustration with the church’s teachings, deeming it “Seal Despair”, implying that “none can teach” these meanings. The final stanza concludes with the personal experience of death. Dickinson says “the landscape listens-“. The hyphen suspends the phrase for a moment, reflecting nature’s pause to observe death. Then, the death goes “like the Distance”, proving that only in that time, can one truly find their own  truth and meaning.


Baym, Nina, and Robert S. Levine, eds. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 8th ed. Vol. C. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2012. Print.

A full version of her poem can be found here


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