top-rated free essay

Emily Dickenson and the Theme of Death

Oct 08, 1999 633 Words
Emily Dickenson And the Theme of Death

By Luke Palmer

Emily Dickenson, an unconventional 19th century poet, used death as the theme for many of her poems. Dickenson's poems offer a creative and refreshingly different perspective on death and its effects on others. In Dickenson's poems, death is often personified, and is also assigned to personalities far different from the traditional "horror movie" roles. Dickenson also combines imaginative diction with vivid imagery to create astonishingly powerful poems.

In the 1862 poem, After Great pain, a formal feeling comes--, Emily Dickenson presents death from the perspective of the bereaved. This poem is written in the third person, and informs the reader as to the actions and thoughts of the mourners through an omniscient narration. In contrast, most of Dickenson's other death related poems show the reader the perspective of the dead. The vivid imagery in this poem functions to enhance the reader's perception of the poem. The following passage conveys a resplendent physical sense of coldness as someone is frozen to death:

"This is the Hour of Lead--
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow--
First--Chill--then Stupor--then the letting go--"

The innovative diction in this passage creates an eerie atmosphere all by itself. The effect of this passage is reminiscent of the famous macabre monologue at the end of Michael Jackson's Thriller. Dickenson also excellently portrays the restlessness of the mourners in this following passage:

"The Feet, mechanical, go round--
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought--"

Describing the feet as "mechanical" shows the agitation and displacement of the mourners. Also, in the next line, "Ought" most closely means "Emptiness." Dickenson artistically shows us how the mourners are dealing with their loss in this next passage:

"A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone--"

To deal with their loss, the mourners have separated themselves from the rest of the world. Their reaction to this catastrophe has become one of denial, causing each to develop "A...contentment, like a stone--."

"Because I could not stop for death--," another famous Emily Dickenson poem, renders a highly unusual personification of death. At first, it seems odd that Dickenson capitalizes "Death" as if it were a proper name. However, Death is described as a cordial and polite man throughout the poem, in sharp contrast with the traditional "grim reaper" bit. This next passage illustrates the difference between Dickenson's Death and death's traditional role:

"Because I could not stop for Death--
He kindly stopped for me--
The Carriage held but just Ourselves--
and Immortality."

Instead of coming to steal life in the night, Death comes to pick the narrator up in a carriage. Like a gentleman, he then waits for her patiently, like he was taking her out on a date.

"We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground--
The Roof was scarcely visible--

Since then--'Tis Centuries--and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses Heads
Were toward Eternity--"

The "House that seemed/ A swelling of the ground--" is obviously a coffin, or some other burial vessel. In the next stanza, the narrator tells us that she has been waiting for centuries; It appears that she is still in the carriage. She feels very optimistic about her journey, presumably because she is traveling toward eternity. Maybe Dickenson's Death is only courteous to those who are worthy of heaven?

Emily Dickenson had the rare talent to ingeniously transform death, a normally unwelcome subject matter, into creative and highly thoughtful pieces of literature. Dickenson's poems show us new ways of looking at death and its effects. Through inventive diction paired with graphic imagery and sometimes shocking perspectives, Dickenson captures our imaginations with her timeless works.

Cite This Document

Related Documents

  • Theme of Death in Emily Dickinson Poetry

    ...Emily Dickinson’s poetry is based on her deepest thoughts and life experiences. During her life she endured many tragic deaths of people close to her. This influenced her writing as means of expression and became a recurrent idea in her poetry. Because in her poems she interprets death differently, it can be inferred that she views death as am...

    Read More
  • Death

    ...Primarily speaking, the necessity of death penalty has been the prolonged clamour of victims' immediate family and relatives of these predators who demoralize and disrespect the life of their preys. A plea for justice has always been the battle cry of these innocent victims who impatiently wait the verdict of this bureaucratic delayed justice sy...

    Read More
  • Robert Frost and Emily Dickenson

    ...Frost and Dickenson Poetry is a part of world literature culture and of life. There have been many famous poets and not so known poets. Many poets’ people have heard of while others have not. Poets I have never heard of are Sir Thomas Wyatt and Rita Dove. I have ready many poetry writings by numerous poets. For this task I decided to rea...

    Read More
  • A Rose for Emily: a Themes of Death and Change

    ...Thomas A Rose for Emily William Faulkner explains why the story is not about him, but his details about a lonely poor woman named Miss Emily is very unpredictable. Miss Emily is unable to grip the idea of death and suffers from denial. After the death of her father, the people from the town expected her to be in a state of grief but she is ...

    Read More
  • The Theme of Death in Emily Dickinson's Poems

    ...Emily Dickinson is one of the famous and fabulous female poets in the world. Her poems, for all their innovative brilliance, are nonetheless outpourings of her private feelings. And just like her great masterpieces, her enigmatic character will never fall into oblivion. Emily Dickinson’s poetry has been the focus of researchers, such as nature...

    Read More
  • Analyzing Emily Dickenson in "Because I Could Not Stop for Death"

    ...Analyzing Emily Dickenson In the poem, "Because I could not stop for death," Emily Dickenson personifies death as a gentleman who had stopped to pick her up in his horse-driven carriage (18th century). She relates her death and funeral procession to that of a carriage ride with the man, death himself. It is really interesting how in this firs...

    Read More
  • Analysis "Because I could not stop for death" by Emily Dickenson

    ...„Because I Could Not Stop for Death“ is a poem by Emily Dickinson which was written in 1863. This poem is on the theme of death and contains six stanzas, each with four verses. The imagery of death can be found within the whole poem, since death is personified (“he kindly stopped for me l. 3) and goes on a kind of journey with the spea...

    Read More
  • Treatment of Death by Emily Dickinson

    ...Madiha Jamal Pankaj Bhattacharjee Lecturer Writing Literary Essays and Composition Eng 437 091-114-020 11 Dec., 2011 Treatment of Death by Emily Dickinson Emily Dickinson wrote on extensive human problems. Probably, the withdrawal from society into isolation resulted in her deep meditation of life’s difficulties. ...

    Read More

Discover the Best Free Essays on StudyMode

Conquer writer's block once and for all.

High Quality Essays

Our library contains thousands of carefully selected free research papers and essays.

Popular Topics

No matter the topic you're researching, chances are we have it covered.