In Emily Dickinson’s, “Because I could not stop for Death”, the use of imagery with sensory language as well as personification to reveal the persuasion of the readers awareness about death. As soon as the poem begins, Dickinson begins giving attributes to death as if it is a spectacular moment in our lives. Emily Dickinson expresses her revolt against the predictable awareness of the hereafter, and the standards maintained by civilization in that period. Right in the first stanza, Dickinson lets the audience know that death is personified. Death has been given human-like characteristics. Death is humanized as a ‘man’ pursuing a young woman. It seems to show that the young woman has an appointment with death. Dickinson shows this in lines 1 and 2 when it states, "Because I could not stop for death, / He kindly stopped for me." The reader can see in line two, Dickinson gives death the human trait of being thoughtful. It begins feeling like the woman is almost thrilled and even grateful because of the generous nature of this man named Death. Richard Chase commented on Emily Dickinson’s portrayal of death in which he stated, “The personification of death, however, is unassailable. In the literal meaning of the poem, he is apparently a successful citizen who has amorous but genteel intentions. He is also God…” (Chase 249-250). Death is obvious in what Dickinson portrays it to be, a young, powerful man in which changes life forever. It is ironic, that the woman in this poem believes death to be such a kind-hearted fellow. Most do not perceive death as a relief but as a nightmare instead. The woman in the poem feels a sense of relief when death stops for her. She is able to continue her crazy fast life and does not have to wait around to die because like Hoepfner says in his book, “To those who believe in an afterlife, death may be kind in taking us from a world of proverbial woe into one of equally proverbial eternal bliss; the irony is in the contrast between our fear of death and the kindness of his mission, and it seems unnecessary to call upon an amorous implication” (Hoepfner 96). This is an unusual view on the concept of what death usually is looked at as, but this is what Dickinson wants to portray to the reader and it is executed very well. Dickinson also shows human- like traits to immorality. She seems to give ‘Immorality’ the role in being almost a caretaker to Death and the woman. Richard Chase commented on Dickinson’s use of immorality in the poem in which he said, “The only pressing technical objection to this poem is the remark that “Immorality” in the first stanza is a meretricious and unnecessary personification and that the common sense of the situation demands that Immorality ought to be the destination of the coach and not one of the passengers” (Chase 249-250). In lines 3 and 4, it says "The carriage held but just ourselves / And Immortality." These lines give the impression that ‘Immortality' is basically their watchman. During the period of time in which this poem was written, it would have been very inappropriate for a young man and woman to be alone without someone along beside them so Dickinson makes sure to include a chaperone in the interaction between the young woman and Death. Chase believed that Immorality should not be the chaperon that Dickinson implied it to be, rather the endpoint of where the woman was trying to get to. Although Richard Chase has a point in his opinion on how Dickinson should have referred to Immorality as, Theodore C. Hoepfner has opposing thoughts. Hoepfner states, “The trouble with this remark is that it does not present the common sense of the situation. Emily Dickinson was taught Christian doctrine--- not simply Christian morality but Christian theology--- and she knew that the coach cannot head toward immorality, nor can one of the passengers. Dickinson here compresses two related but differing concepts: (I) at death the soul journeys to heaven (eternity), and...
Cited: Dickinson, Emily. Because I Could Not Stop for Death. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2. E. Ed. Sarah Lawall. New York: W W Norton , 2003.
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