Interpretation of a Poem
Emily Dickinson wrote the poem titled “A narrow fellow in the grass”, which is divided into short five stanzas. There are four lines in every stanza, which balance the poem in an effective way. The poem was written in first person, and the speaker can be regarded as an adult male who mainly recalls back his youthful encounter in the bush. The persona’s voice engages the readers through the poem as one addresses them directly by referring to them as “you.” However, as the readers continue to read and understand the poem, one can easily identify the confusion in the speaker’s voice, especially when one meets the snake, which seems to be estranged. The speaker describes the snake in various terms such as “fellow” (twice), “comb”, and at times “rides.” This clearly suggests that the speaker has some sort of rift from the snake meaning that one does not have a strong connection with it. The poem explores cold moments of recognition because there are several moments when the speaker came to the realization that things were not as clear as it was anticipated leading to the confusion in the image of nature.
The aim of Dickinson with the poem was to enable the readers to relate to the speaker’s experience as one encountered nature, which was in the form of the snake. However, it is evident that the speaker was not fully aware of the true identity of nature as confusion is evident throughout the poem during their encounters. At one point, one thought that he had come to identify its true identity, but it suddenly disappeared from him. This shows that things were not as clear to the speaker as he had anticipated before because nature turned out to be more confusing.
At the beginning of the poem, in the first stanza, the speaker refers to the snake as a “fellow”, which sounds more civilized and friendly. It means that he had developed some connection or familiarity with nature, which mainly rode in the grass. The same tone is used in the second stanza as the speaker refers to the snake as a comb because it was dividing the grass. The connection appears tight as the snake closes at his feet before combing further in the grass. However, the speaker recalls the way in which while being a child he tried to secure it, but it wrinkled away and disappeared. It can be interpreted that the speaker was wrong and a bit confused because it is evident there was no connection between him and nature. The way in which he viewed the snake was different from the way in which the snake viewed him. This is the reason he could not get a hold of it. It is clear that the speaker was confused about nature, and it was not as friendly as he thought but instead feared him; thus, he could not get a hold of it. The snake might have taken his breath away, especially the ways in which it combed the grass and moved, but that did not mean that it does that to please the speaker.
In stanza three, the readers see the ways in which the speaker personifies nature when he used the word “like” to describe where it resides. According to him, the snake likes living in a boggy acre, a place, which is cool. This is the same thing that happened in stanza one when referred to the snake as a “fellow” giving it more of human characteristics. However, the readers can identify the change when he came to the realization that this thing that had been combing the grass is not a human but a snake, which has a certain preference in regards to home. It shows that the speaker was initially confused by the true identity of nature and only later came to realize that things were not as he had anticipated.
At the beginning of the poem, it is not easy to identify who the speaker is (whether it is an animal or a human being). It could have been easy for the readers to assume that the speaker was a snake because of the use of the word “fellow.” Dickinson only reveals the true identity of the speaker in stanza 3 when he was recalling his childhood and his experience with nature. This is where it is made clear about his true identity, which the readers realize is different from the snake.
In conclusion, Dickinson’s poem explores cold moments of recognition because there are several moments when the speaker came to the realization that things were not as clear as he had anticipated leading to the confusion in the image of nature. It is easy for the readers to relate to this poem because, at one point in life, they come to anticipate that things are not the same as they had initially expected. The illusions of nature are common to a man; and when you come to recognize its true identity, you realize the reasons of why things happened in a certain way, like the speaker of the poem, who later realized that the “fellow” was not friendly because it was a snake.