Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 4 | Words: 1027
Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The poem “The Narrow Fellow in the Grass†by Emily Dickinson seems to depart from what the writer thought to be a simplistic view of nature. It suggests that we humans do not have a clear understanding of it. As we know, Dickinson passionately loves nature. With this poem she asserts that while it is possible to be a part of nature, humans are inevitably outsiders that are allowed to observe it, but never understand its intricate secrets. The poem can be interpreted as a story about a snake, although in the poem the “narrow fellow†is never referred to directly as such, and a young boy who has to deal with the unwelcome encounter with nature. Emily Dickinson explored the mystical connection between man and nature, and the “narrow fellow†is a long living symbol of hers. As it is introduced in the poem, the term “narrow fellow†is a colloquial expression that makes this creature appear harmless enough. “Narrow†means small as compared to length, and “fellow†is used to refer to a man or boy. I believe that the author tried to convey her idea that nature is indifferent to the struggles of mankind; it has its own will and life. The author challenges our typical perspective on nature. She thinks that we as humans wish to be close to nature, partake of its inner processes, but because we do not understand much about it, we must be careful because it may pose danger to us.

 In the first stanza, the poem begins by placing the speaker in a field where he suddenly stumbles upon a snake making its way through the grass. The observer describes the snake’s movements and compares them to those of humans. When Dickinson wrote “occasionally rides†(Dickinson 1-4), it seems she is referring to the way people ride on horseback. People have the typical idea that the snake slithers; however, Dickinson challenges this way of thinking and argues that the snake rides along in the grass.Comparing the motions of a snake to that of a rider is a metaphor. In the poem discussed, the snake as a representative of nature is compared to people. When the author says “you may have met him, -did you not†(Dickinson 1-4), she presents sort of riddle – she questions her readers about whether or not they have seen the “narrow fellowâ€. By saying that the narrow fellow disappears suddenly the speaker provides the listener with another clue.

Then in the second stanza the speaker gets only a glimpse of the snake as it makes its way through the grass. Saying “the grass divides as with a comb†(5-8) the narrator continues to talk about how the snake attracts attention and how it moves through the grass. The snake’s movements is like disguised and plain small “shafts†between the grasses at the human’s feet. The snake moves quickly and subtly just as the indefinable and somewhat abstract elusive character of nature. 

In the third stanza Dickinson describes a certain degree of superiority to the snake by stating that it inhabits places that the narrator never would – the “boggy acreâ€. The poet describes the temperature the snake enjoys most, the cool. In this same stanza the narrator addresses his childhood by saying “Yet when a boy†(9-11). By walking barefoot in a field with a snake the boy feels closer to nature, although more vulnerable to it. Therefore, the author could be implying that the idea of exploring nature’s character, yet not being prepared for what you might find may make one feel quite vulnerable.

In the fourth stanza the narrator portrays how the boy tried to have some kind of closeness with the snake by trying to play with it. It seems to be a comparison to the attitude with which humans try to approach nature. The boy believes he can partake of or play with nature. However, he quickly learns that the closer he gets to the snake and, therefore, to nature the further it seems to slip from his grasp. When this happens, the narrator becomes somewhat frustrated knowing that he is incapable of capturing or touching the snake. The snake’s actions are unpredictable. This shows nature’s indifference toward human’s desires and struggles. By saying “it wrinkled, and was gone†(13-16) Dickinson meant that the snake was hard to grab because it vanished into grass easily and was gone with a wrinkle.

In the fifth stanza the narrator clearly feels a wave of emotion sweeping over him and states “Several of Nature’s People / I know, and they know me” (17-20). Apparently, the author is trying to convince her readers that the closeness with nature is possible. But in that way, it almost sounds like the narrator is trying to convince nature that he is a friend who can really be trusted to. “Transport of cordiality†is the most relevant feeling he has for these animals.

Finally, in the last stanza the narrator’s perspective is revealed. An element of fear and reverence for nature is introduced. The narrator showed his desire to get closer to nature by picturing the snake as a harmless, even friendly creature. However, in this stanza the author admits that he has strong feelings of fear towards these creatures. “But never met this fellow†(21-24), is a certain warning to prevent people from looking for an encounter with this unique animal, for it can make breathing “tighter†and bring shivers “at the boneâ€. The reader, like the narrator, can feel danger; the sense of awareness is heightened. While the narrator seems to want to be a friend of nature, he cannot help but fear the sight of the snake and realize its potential evil.

We can conclude that the author strongly suggests that we as humans treat nature with respect and keep it at a distance. This is because it functions of its own accord and is governed by its own laws. We do not understand much about nature and its ways, although people attempt to learn its ways, however, it may hold a potential danger. Therefore, being outsiders to the nature, people should not try to “pry for more than we needâ€.

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