Poetry Analysis of “A Narrow Fellow in The Grass” by Emily Dickinson

This is an analysis of Emily Dickinson’s poem "A Narrow Fellow In the Grass" that will prove that the poem is in fact about the fear a virgin has of sex.

Throughout the poem, A Narrow Fellow in the Grass, there are many literary devices used to allude to its sexual theme. The speaker shows the fear of a virgin by knowing the naturalness of sex yet still being afraid of it. This is accomplished through the literary devices of personification, metaphor, and visual imagery.

This poem is most often said to be about a snake. The snake is personified as a man the words, “narrow fellow,” in the first line of the poem. By using the word “fellow”in her description of the snake she alludes to the snake in regards to man. In colloquial terms, the word snake is often used with regards to male genitalia. A “narrow fellow” can therefore be read as the male penis.

The speaker refers to this one male in particular. The speaker says of the fellow that, “his notice sudden is” (line 4). This is the literary device of metaphor. By saying “his notice” the speaker is telling you of the man’s ejaculant. By saying “sudden is” the speaker is stating that this male is quick to ejaculate. This can be further proved by the line before which says, “you may have met him”. The word “met” can be referring to the sexual “[meeting]” of coitus, and therefore puts a sexual connotation to the next line.

When the speaker reaches for this thing that scares her so much, it disappears. In the end of stanza four, the speaker says, “it wrinkled, and was gone”. This is the visual imagery of a penis becoming flaccid. This man that she is speaking of is already said to be quick to ejaculate. When the speaker reaches for it, “it wrinkle[s]“. By saying “wrinkle[s]” this implies that the man has already ejaculated and his penis is now getting soft again, shrinking in size. By saying that it eventually “was gone” the speaker implies that it has shrank into itself, as penises tend to do. What was erect and had length of some sort has now lost both its length and its hardness. To an average inexperienced female at the time the penis would have seemed to disappear.

The speaker in the poem is speaking of her experiences. She ends the poem showing her fear. Though she knows that sex is a natural act, she is still afraid of it. This irrational fear paired with the not knowing of the speaker, in regards to the penis seeming to disappear, implies that she is indeed a virgin.

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1 Comment
  1. Nik
    Posted November 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    A really interesting analysis… but if you read through the life that she lived, you would probably conclude she was too preoccupied with other issues than fear of losing her virginity :O

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