Characterization of Death in Dickinson's Poetry

Topics: Death, Life, Afterlife Pages: 5 (2166 words) Published: November 27, 2007

Emily Dickinson had a sad life full with tragic experiences and its influences on her poetry can be seen in most of her works. During her life, she struggled with traumatic effects of a succession of deaths and due to this situation she spend the later half of her years in grief. The tragic deaths of people close to Dickinson have affected her writing and style of expression, in which death became a persisting theme of her poetry. Even though most of her poems consist directly on the subject "death", she also used unusual ways to write about this theme, by writing about immortality as a state of consciousness in an everlasting present. A typical example can be seen in her poems "Because I could not stop for Death", "I heard a Fly buzz when I died" and "I died for Beauty but was scarce". Emily Dickinson wrote most of her poems for the period of sensitive apprehension during the civil war. Her poem, "Because I could not stop for Death", is a mischievous metaphor in which death is embodied as a man. The first lines of the poem "Because I could not stop for death / He kindly stopped for me—," (1-2) reflect that she is pending to meet death on his own conditions. Typically, death is described as with pessimistic associations, however, Dickinson describes her carriage ride with death as, "I had put away/ My labor and my leisure too,/ For His Civility," ( 6-8). By illustrating death as being civil, she expresses a courteous and gracious picture of death. This line has also a religious perspective; hence, Dickinson capitalized "His" in order to indicate God. The poem continues with a stanza telling about many things she passes during her carriage ride with death. "We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain / We passed the Setting Sun," (11-12). While they pass the scenery of the sun, Dickinson portrays the amount of time that is going by with detailed natural imagery, so the carriage ride with death appears to be eternal. The next stanza, in which she says "For only Gossamer, my Gown / My Tippet only Tulle," (15-16) is about her dress. She speaks of her tippet and tulle, however, it is unclear as to whether she is regarding to the slight lacy veil of a bride or the black lacy grief veil, which is worn by women at funerals. At this point, death is described as an extension of life; hence, both of them are made from similar fabrics. In the next stanza Dickinson brings the "house" allegory into play in order to refer to a kind of gravestone, the house barley over the earth. "A House that seemed/ A Swelling of the Ground / The Roof was scarcely visible," (17-19). Generally the carriage ride with death would be a one way trip without turning back, however in the ending lines the poem, she addresses to "infinity". She exploits a recurring structure while speaking of her carriage ride with death that shows the way into eternity, by making death a different extension of life.

For the period of the time Dickinson was writing, there were many sufferers as a result of the civil war and for many people, death has became an usual occasion of their daily lives. Consequently, Dickinson seems to accept death by describing it almost with a sympathetic way. Even though the prior poem was about a carriage ride of everlasting death, in her another poem entitled as "I heard a Fly buzz when I died", Dickinson told the story of a woman who is still able to hear and speak upon her death. Since the dead woman is still capable of speaking, Dickinson thinks that dying is incessant and continual. This poem has an extremely sarcastic and strange side due to its concern with life's most severe moments but at the same time it is preoccupied by life's most insignificant commotions. The first line illustrates a picture of the women as she is laying on her deathbed, which is surrounded by her family. The dying woman says, "I heard a Fly buzz when I died," (1). The poem starts with a strange and apparently not...
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