Because I Could Not Stop For Death

High School ・Literature ・MLA ・1 Sources

Authors often articulate themselves by fiction, in which they share personal experiences or focus on current issues impacting society. Writing techniques vary, with some focusing exclusively on fact and some on abstract activities. Regardless of style, the poems are intended to express specific details or enlighten the public about something. I couldn't resist and I couldn't stop myself. Emily Dickinson's poem Death is one of her most famous, focusing heavily on the subject of death. Dickinson wrote a lot about death and the things that go with it in her literary career. In this particular one, the protagonist strives to communicate from beyond the grave, enlightening people about her death journey, personified, from life to the afterlife. As such, this paper will provide an in-depth analysis of the poem and the elements the poet strives to communicate regarding the inevitability of death.
From the first two lines, the speaker immediately begins to enlighten the reader on what the central theme would entail. By stating “Because I could not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me,” the speaker illustrates the inevitability of death. She personifies death by giving it human features and reminding the readers that no one has control over it. The second line then portrays death as a kind individual. From this two lines, the author sets the mood of the poem, which is calm typically illustrating the acceptance of death. The reader is encouraged to embrace death calmly since it is unavoidable. In the next two lines, the words Carriage, Ourselves, and Immortality are capitalized to emphasize on the three terms. In other words, line 3 implies that it is only the protagonist and death who are in the Carriage, “The Carriage held but just Ourselves,” but then the break (-) creates a suspense that is answered in line four “Immortality.” In this line, the speaker implies that she may not be actually viewing death as the last thing; rather, it is a step towards immortality i.e. an afterlife (Poetry Foundation).
The second stanza comprises of four lines with the first line in it indicating that death has no hurry via the sentiment “We slowly drove – He knew no haste.” Death is entirely in control of the protagonist even if she does not seem to be afraid of it. The feeling is still calm as the line elongates the suspense entailed in the previous lines. Lines 6 to 8 illustrate how the speaker sacrifices her free time and work to embrace death. The narrator “puts away labor and leisure too, For his Civility” i.e. due to the charming or rather politeness of death. It typically implies that the speaker is quite contented with her encounter with death. The speaker then integrates a real-life setting into the scene by indicating how they “passed the school, where Children Strove” in line 9. The kids were probably playing in the yard during recess, which is normal. She goes on to create another scene in the following two lines in “the fields of gazing gain” and “setting sun.” The setting sun may be indicative of the end of day or life while the phrase “We passed” is repeated to simulate the slow movement of the carriage. The phrase also illustrates that the poem is in motion and the readers are part of the expedition (Poetry Foundation).
Dickinson then personifies the sun in line 13, showing how it leaves one in cold darkness, which is death when it passes. Using the phrase “Or rather” implies that the poem is likely to shift to a graver version. This notion is evidenced by next line, where “The Dews drew quivering and Chill.” As the sun fades away into oblivion, the speaker starts shivering due to the cold emanating from the dewy night. Furthermore, the narrator was dressed in a “Gossamer Gown” i.e. thin material that could not prevent her from getting the cold. The fact that she did not wear the right attire for this journey shows her unpreparedness to travel with death. Evidently, cold is normally used in literature to typify death, and the author rightly integrates this aspect in this poem (Poetry Foundation).
Lines 17 and 18 echo what the reader has guessed all through the poem i.e. the protagonist is about to die, and their journey with death was leading her to the graveyard. However, the speaker portrays the burial spot as a “House” or rather “A Swelling of the Ground,” to imply that humans have a dwelling place in the ground. It is a home, which awaits every living being. The narrator continues to expound on the attributes of the house, stating that “The Roof was scarcely visible – The Cornice – in the Ground.” The attributes of this home evidence the grave (Poetry Foundation).
It is in line 21 that the reader realizes the event happened a long time ago. Through the sentiments “Since then – ‘tis Centuries,” the reader realizes that the narrator was all along talking from the grave. She has been dead for many years, but it felt like yesterday as depicted by the phrase, “Feels shorter than the Day.” Evidently, the thought of losing loved ones continues to linger in our thoughts even if it happened many years ago. From the speaker’s perspective, death remains fresh in memory regardless of the number of years. She echoes these sentiments implying that the “Horses’ Heads,” were pushing forwards “towards eternity.” When the poem began, the narrator only introduces the reader to a carriage that is revealed in the final lines, implying that they were special horses that led the passage to the afterlife (Poetry Foundation).
In conclusion, the first stanza hinted on immortality as the speaker occupying the carriage is thought to be immortal, yet she attains it in the final stanza. Death, as depicted by this writing, is inevitable; hence, the narrator has no choice but to develop a somehow positive and calm attitude towards it. Like many authors, Dickinson narrates about death and enlightens the readers about many aspects surrounding the same. She utilizes various devices like the personification of death to give it the relevant attributes. At first glance, the poem may seem easy to comprehend, but further reading illustrates the deeper meaning it conveys to the readers.

Works Cited

Poetry Foundation. "Because I could not stop for Death by Emily Dickinson." n.d. 19 June 2017. <>.

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