Analysis of A Bird Came down the Walk by Emily Dickinson

"A Bird Came down the Walk” is a beautiful example of  Dickinson's concentrated transformation of an abstract subject into a question of importance. The operative gaze, that through which the speaker locates the bird and situates it as the subject of observation, that process itself highlights the importance of the viewing process and the way meaning is made.

a bird came down the walk analysis

The bird, and the worm that the bird devours—such a subject is reviewed and taken up for the purpose of presenting the operations in the world of creatures that follow the cycle where no human rules apply. As the poem moves forward, it is evident that focus is not merely on the bird and what he does, but there is a gradual encompassing of elements that suggest the marvel of everyday life in the natural environment. What is imperative here is that the world that comes to constitute the subject of the poem is that where the marks of existence do not show any sign of action that can be paralleled to what human beings en indulge in.

When the speaker offers crumbs to the bird, the initial reaction suggests the basic animal instinct, where caution is associated with survival, and that is why in spite of human presence the focus continues to be on the bird. The speaker takes on the role bystander and a witness, who tries to make sense of how the bird responds to what he encounters. The fact that the observer is looking at the world from the human point of view gives the whole scene a contrasting structure, whereby Dickinson is able to show how what is natural is also part of a larger scheme or process.

The movement of the bird, who enters the human zone—a walk shows that this is part of the world where human beings live—is, however, not completely conditioned by human response, as the observation of the speaker or the possibility of presence shows another dimension of bird behaviour. The emphasis on the natural world order, the cyclic character of the events that make up the scene and the movement of the bird, all of these combine to present a picture which suggests the larger circumstance beyond the merely human. The sense of fear with which bird looks around can be ascribed to both instinct and fear of detection, but it also clear that the bird does not move around without, the objective of subsistence.Combined with the need for survival, the bird and its movements present the situation through which the image of natural necessity emerges in the poem.

The final metaphor of the boat and the movement in water present the picture of an object made by man, but the transference onto that of the bird whose natural situation is sought to be appropriated through this combined symbol shows how the bird is driven by its first instinct, that of survival. When the bird is not certain of the source, it takes flight, a smooth movement away from a scene which could potentially the cause of danger. The poem A Bird Came down the Walk is a beautiful evocation of the gap that exists between the human and the natural worlds, and even when there is the scope of interaction in a non-hostile environment, the distance between the two cannot be completely removed.

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