Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Topics: Metaphor, Emily Dickinson, Poetry Pages: 7 (1894 words) Published: September 29, 2014
Death Revealed
In Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I could not stop for Death" the main emphasis seems to be the acceptance of Death. Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) gives reference to the theme by using "death" in the first line. The poem is unique and interesting because she presents Death in a different way by referring to it as an escort taking her on a journey towards eternity rather than making it seem like something frightening. Each stanza of the poem breaks down the journey through the stages of her life that leads to the end where the speaker reaches eternity and she finally realizes that she is no longer living. In the fifth stanza when she refers to the coffin as her "house" gives the impression that she's comfortable with death and not afraid. Death is seen as something that's a natural part of life that you don't have to be scared to face. Many critics may agree that Death is the important subject of the poem, but they each have their own view of how this theme is interpreted. In a critical analysis by Allen Tate he says that "the content of death in the poem eludes forever any explicit definition" (Tate 76-119). He believes that that this is one the greatest poems within the English language because it's flawless. Each image is precise and fuses with the central idea which in this particular poem is death. An example of her power to fuse into a single order of perception is in the third stanza where she refers to the children, the grain, and the setting sun (Tate 76-119). Tate speaks of the poem's "subtly interfused erotic motive, which the idea of death has presented to most romantic poets, love being a symbol interchangeable with death" (Tate 76-119). "Because I could not stop for Death," Tate calls attention to the startling irony of presenting Death, an embodiment of terror, as a gentleman, and even more ironically as the servant of Immortality (Tate 76-119). In "Because I could not stop for Death," the poet personifies death, making him a real person with human characteristics. Chris Semansky has written a great deal about modern and postmodern literature. In the article "An Overview of “Because I could not stop for Death”, he speaks about Thomas Johnson's feelings relating to the poem: "Because I could not stop for Death” is a superlative achievement where death becomes the greatest character in literature" (Semansky). Personification is a type of figurative language one uses to give abstract ideas human-like characteristics. Dickinson uses personification in this poem because it allows the reader to understand death in a more intimate way. Death became so real to her and to her contemporaries because of the time in which she lived. Through her life experiences, one would assume that Dickinson became intimate with death. Because of all the disease and epidemics in her lifetime, many of her loved ones probably passed away. These deaths might have been very intense breaks in her life. In this poem, death is personified as a gentleman caller taking the lady out for a carriage ride. This personification gives the reader a better image of the writer’s idea of the coming of death. Dickinson gives Death many characteristics that help us shape an image of him. In line two "He kindly stopped for me" in the first stanza, immediately gives a male gender (Dickinson 664-665). This male image gives us a traditional idea of a gentleman caller. This line also reveals a kind quality of death. The kind quality is important throughout this poem because it allows the speaker to feel more comfortable on this indefinite ride. The speaker also tells of Death’s civility. One can draw from these characteristics an image of a polite and courteous man driving the carriage. These warm-hearted qualities give the reader a calm, inquisitive look at death. However, this genteel driver elicits the terror of death. The kind and caring qualities that we see in Death in the poem leads one to believe that Death, the suitor, also represents a...
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