I felt a Funeral, in my Brain

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The poem is written in the first-person omniscient-poetic voice.

Form and Meter

Dickinson adheres to no strict traditional form or metrical pattern throughout, although the poem is divided into five stanzas of four lines each. This structure allows the poet to draw out repetitions and variations of formal features, such as the rhythmic similarities between stanzas one and two.

Metaphors and Similes

Much of the poem is, necessarily, understood as a metaphor, including its very premise. We’re not meant to believe that a funeral is literally occurring inside the speaker’s “brain.” However, Dickinson does also make use of more local metaphorical language, such as the simile “A Service, like a Drum -”, which is striking for its inversion of the standard structure of a simile, in which we’d expect the more abstract concept (“Service”) to be the object of comparison to the more directly sensory “Drum.”

Alliteration and Assonance

Both alliteration and assonance are present throughout “I felt a Funeral…” For instance, in the stanza beginning “As all the Heavens were a Bell,” that first line, though it contains two different vowels, is made up almost entirely of a single, short vowel sound. This increases the emphasis drawn by the repetition of the long “e” sound in the second line (“Being” and “Ear”) and the long “i” sound in the third line (“I” and “Silence”).



Dickinson’s poem falls into the genre of lyric poetry, but it’s also clearly influenced by the tradition of Metaphysical poetry, such as that written by John Donne.


To the extent that it has a setting, this poem takes place at a (metaphorical) “funeral” understood to be inside the speaker’s psyche.


Abstract, ominous, and philosophical. The first part of the poem builds a powerfully oppressive, claustrophobic feeling through emphasis on the repetitive, sinister noises produced by the funeral’s “mourners.”

Protagonist and Antagonist

Major Conflict


Despite some appearances to the contrary, the poem is decidedly non-narrative. But there is a “climax” or at least a “turn” (sometimes called a “volta” in poetry), which takes place at the end of the third/beginning of the fourth stanza, where Dickinson moves from concrete description of the “funeral” to a set of more metaphysical considerations.




Metonymy and Synecdoche


Describing “being” as an “ear” is, arguably, a form of personification, in which Dickinson is taking an abstract concept and ascribing to it at least one core human capacity.