WC: American Literature September 6, 2011
One recurring theme in Emily Dickinson’s poems is death. Dickinson did not only view death in one way, however. Two of her poems “I heard a fly buzz when I died” and “Because I could not stop for Death” share the same theme. Both stories depict some type of journey towards death. The main difference between the two poems is one has an optimistic tone while the other has a pessimistic tone.
In “I heard a fly buzz when I died,” the fly is the embodiment of death, representing the power death has over us. The fly has the ability to distract the speaker from life and slowly drag him/her towards death with its “blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz.” The light in this poem symbolizes not only physical life, but as well as the spiritual light we see before people enter the gates of Heaven. In the poem, Death is viewed as a powerful and interposing force that grows in strength and size the closer to you come towards it.
While death is shown as an end of your life in “I heard a fly buzz when I died,” In “Because I could not stop for Death,” the speaker tells us of an immortality we gain after our death. The immortality in which the speaker speaks of is the life of our soul. The speaker believes that our soul lives on and is able to look back on our life on earth. “The carriage” takes us through a journey of our life as if we were watching a video. The end of the ride is where our soul will reside for eternity.
Both poems compare death to a journey. In “Because I could not stop for Death,” the speaker is sitting in a carriage as they “slowly drove” through all the events in the speaker’s life. They “passed the school where children played,” “the fields of gazing grain,” and “a house that seemed / A swelling of the ground.” These three scenes...