"There's been a Death in the Opposite House", by Emily Dickinson

The minister goes stiffly in
As if the house were his
And he owned all the mourners now
And little boys besides

Some meanings as to the lines above:

In lines 13-16, the Minister is a dominant figure when death occurred.

  • The Minister of the Church assures and takes control of the people and situation.
  • Everyone listens to him and follows his order.
  • He performs the last rites for the death.

I am wondering what the bold part means.

Would you simply show me the concept of the bold parts or the meaning of its?

  • Please edit the question and type the bold part more carefully. Can you also provide more information about the source; is it a poem, novel etc?
    – JMB
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 17:58
  • "stiffly" and "as if the house were his" don't seem to go together.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 22:35
  • 2
    Unfortunately the website from which you quote the poem does not display the punctuation and capitalization that Dickinson used. See here and here, for example, which show that Dickinson used a ton of dashes and capitalized almost every noun. This doesn't change your question much, but at least shows that the version you quoted is not faithful to the original.
    – user20792
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 22:39

1 Answer 1


The minister enters the house where someone has died as if he now owned the house, and all the mourners in it, and even the little boys there.

That is all that Dickinson shows us: the minister's demeanour. The glosses you offer are inferences, not facts in the text. Perhaps he will take control, and perhaps people will listen and follow his orders; all we know is that he acts as if he expects things of that sort to happen. He may lead prayers, but it is very unlikely that he will perform anything which could be called "last rites"; that term represents a Catholic practice which would not have been widely observed in Dickinson's Amherst.

  • Indeed, it is highly doubtful that 'The Minister' is a Catholic priest, as they are not routinely called ministers. This is a Protestant title.
    – user20792
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 22:43
  • @User1 Quite so--not merely Protestant but mostly Congregationalist. Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 22:50

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