“Because I Could Not Stop For Death”
During the start of the realist movement, Emily Dickinson wrote “Because I could Not Stop for Death,” questioning the communal values of religion and eternity. The poem, at first, looks to be about the eternal afterlife, but with closer inspection of the language, (i.e. “Surmised” is a word of uncertainty) we find that she is actually not sure about the eternity of afterlife and all it entails. The 19th century was the beginning of a new era. Science and religion were beginning to intersect and to some, clash. Dickinson’s poem, in a way, is a direct comparison of this battle, as she is obviously struggling with idea of eternity and the traditional belief of the afterlife being heaven or hell.
Dickinson uses realism in this poem by speaking of the reality of death, an event every living thing will experience, while using symbolism and personification. Death is personified as a gentleman who is gently taking her on a carriage ride. The first two lines, “Because I could not stop for Death/He kindly stopped for me-“(Dickinson, Line 1-2) symbolizes that the narrator has died but not on her own terms. She was not prepared for death, but Death “kindly” stopped for her. Dickinson personifies death, but is talking about the actual event of dying. Unlike the common fear among society of death, this journey is calm and peaceful: “He knew no haste” (Dickinson, Line 5) and “For His Civility” (Dickinson Line 8) are phrases used to describe the gentle nature of death. On her journey, she reflects the stages of her life. “We passed the School, where Children strove” (Dickinson,line 9) represents her childhood or youth. “We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain” (Dickinson,line 11) represents the maturity of adulthood, and “We passed the Setting Sun” (Dickinson, line 12) represents the end. All of these events are common to everyone; childhood, adulthood, and death. Carol Frost writes, “There are no...
Cited: Dickinson, Emily. "Because I could not stop for Death." Mandell, Kirszner and. LIT. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen Mandell. Boston: Wadsworth 2012. 502. Print
Frost, Carol. "http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dickinson/712.htm." 1996. Modern American Poetry. Web.
"Emily Dickinson and The Church | Emily Dickinson Museum." Emily Dickinson and The Church | Emily Dickinson Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.
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