The Affirmation of Death in Emily Dickinson's Work "Because I Could Not Stop for Death"

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Mercedes Patterson
Literature 204
Jack Phillips

The Affirmation of Death in Emily Dickinson’s Work
“Because I Could Not Stop For Death…”

Emily Dickinson is regarded as one of the greatest American female poets. Although Emily Dickinson wrote about death in many of her works, she often times wrote about it in peculiar ways such as death as being eternal and continuous but also immortality as a state of consciousness can be seen in her poem, "Because I could not stop for Death-“. Emily Dickinson’s poem, "Because I could not stop for Death-", is a playful allegory in which death is personified as a gentleman. In the first line she writes, "Because I could not stop for death-/ He kindly stopped for me-," (1-2) meaning that she is coming to meet death on his own terms. Usually death is presented as being unavoidable with associations of fear, but Dickinson describes her carriage ride as, "I had put away/ My labor and my leisure too,/For His Civility," (6-8). She describes death as being "civil" meaning that death was rather courteous and polite. The next stanza speaks of the many things she passes while riding in the carriage with death. "We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-/ We passed the Setting Sun," (11-12). The carriage ride with death seems to be everlasting as they even pass the setting of the sun, describing the amount of time that is going by as well as specific natural images. In the next stanza she speaks of her dress as, "For only Gossamer, my Gown-/ My Tippet-only Tulle-," (15-16). When she talks about her tippet and tulle, it is unsure as to whether she is talking about the thin lacy fabric worn at weddings as a veil, or the black lacy mourning veil that women often wear at funerals. Because of the similarity to both, death becomes an extension of life. The next stanza describes, "a House that seemed/ A Swelling of the Ground-/ The Roof was scarcely visible-," (17-19). Dickinson uses the "house" metaphor when...
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