Because I Could Not Stop for Death Analysis

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“Because I Could Not Stop For Death” Analysis

The poem, “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” by Emily Dickinson

presents captivating themes on the cycle of life, time, and death. The first two lines,

“Because I could not stop for death - / He kindly stopped for me – “ (Dickinson 679;

Stanza 1, Line 1 & 2), capture the poem’s central theme, but the interpretations of

that theme vary widely. This variation would have to do with how one would

interpret Death. The three varied elements that are used to describe the theme are

the civil character of Death, how Death has to do with the eternal life and, and

sailing through time in order to look back at seeing the positives of living every day

life. One would say that Death describes a scenario as dreadful, or unpleasant.

However, the underlying meaning of Death is the exact opposite in this poem. The

narrative subject of the poem finds herself to be immersed, and too involved with

the humdrum of everyday living. From the subject’s point-of-view, the character

Death is a like a civil gentleman who interrupts her in order to remove her thoughts

of everyday living. The poem is not meant to portray Death as something evil, but

rather as someone civilized and gentlemanly, kindly stopping to offer her a carriage

ride to her destination. Dickinson’s use of familiar language and colloquial tone

convey her attitude that death and dying are not to be feared.

In the first stanza, the narrative figure begins to view Death as a mysterious

friend that guides her through her thoughts. When one first thinks of Death, an

image of a grim reaper or a figure of evil is projected. However, such is not the case

in this poem. Figuratively speaking, this poem is about a woman who goes on a date

with Death. Dickinson uses the personification of Death as a metaphor throughout

the poem. Here, Death is described as a civil gentleman, perhaps handsome and well

groomed, who makes a call at the home of a naïve young woman. She stated that,

“He kindly stopped for me” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 1, Line 2). The point that the

narrative figure tries to make is the gentle nature of Death. This woman has been so

caught up with the stresses of living that she hasn’t been able to take the time to

know what Death’s true intentions are. She decides to give Death a chance because

she becomes intrigued to find herself in this gentleman’s favor.

In the second stanza, we find out that the narrative figure keeps herself busy

without realizing the good intentions of death. The young woman comments about

his “Civility” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 2, Line 8). She appears to be enticed to Death’s

charm, as well as his good manners. Her potential stereotypical expectations about

Death would be entirely false. The expectations of Death are described as evil,

rotten, and dangerous. However, she has been proven wrong. His chivalrous

behavior had made the young woman feel trustworthy and safe. This all ties in to

the woman to give Death a chance, and show her that living everyday life can be a

great experience. All that she needs to do is put trust on Death. After she does this,

she begins to journey off with the mysterious figure.

In the third and fourth stanza, the narrative figure looks at time as a way to

repress her memories of being alive and working. Death’s passenger is not very

concerned with his pleasant company, but rather trying to figure out the meaning of

what the purpose is of living as the journey goes on. In spite of the fact that she “put

away” (Dickinson 679, Stanza 2, Line 6) her “labor” (Dickinson 679, Stanza 2, Line 7)

and “leisure” in the previous stanza, she still remains lost by her experiences in the

mortal world. This is most likely, because she has been exposed to them for almost a

lifetime. In addition, she has been so stressed...
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