Analysisof the Poem “Because I Do Not Stop For Death” By Emily Dickinson
EmilyDickson is among the most notable poets who existed in 1800, most ofher poems are touching on death as the subject. Among her famouslyknown poems about death is becauseIDo Not Stop for Death.Emily Dickson was a less social lady and therefore remained isolatedfrom the rest of the people and in the most occasions she alwaysremained inside their mansion. At a tender age, Emily lost herclosest cousin and friend to death, Sophia Holland, something thattraumatized her and ever since, she believed that it was only deathcould reunite her with Sophia Holland (Kort 25). The given papercontains a detailed analysis of how Emily Dickson has representeddeath in the poem BecauseIDo Not Stop for Death,as well as the effectiveness of the styles used in writing the poem.
Firstly,thetitle of this poem "Because Could not Stop for Death” givesmore insight into the message of the poem. Emily insinuates thatdeath is a stage in life that every human being will have to gothrough at one point in life and when that time comes no one has gotthe will nor power to evade death as it comes as a command. She,therefore, infers that, it is important to enjoy the remaining timein her life because when death comes, she will not have the choice todecide on what she wants between life and death because her fateshall have been decided (Shaw 21). The poem, therefore, gives anindication that Emily is having the best of her remaining time in theworld, while at the same time she is worried about the death thatawaits her sometime later. The title of this poem also gives aninference that that Emily was not ready to die as it is unclear toher of the circumstances behind her death. She therefore considersdeath as a surprising and unexpected visitor who cannot be stopped orcontrolled by anyone.
Accordingto the poem BecauseI Do Not Stop for Death,Emily describes death as a beautiful and enjoyable experience thatone will have to go through, "he kindly stopped for me"(Dickinson 02).She symbolizes death as a gentle and a caring man todeduceto the readers that death is not such a bad experience but instead itis a sweet moment that can only be compared to the feeling ofromance. She, therefore, tries to reflect that even though she wasnot aware of her untimely death, she does not regret to be dead asthe experiences surpasses that she had in the world at the time shewas alive.
Emilyalso thinks that death is the sweetest journey ever, "thecarriage held by just ourselves"(Dickinson 03). She, therefore,gives a good description of the journey during death. In this case,Dickinson is referring to the procession that usually by peopleduring the burial ceremony, in most cases the burial programs areusually accustomed by a chain of events which are organized by theliving to give last respect to the dead (Shaw 20). For example, in aChristian setup, a requiem service is organized and during this eventso much entertainment is accorded for the dead e.g. Christian hymnsare sung to the dead, the family members are also given opportunitiesto give sweet eulogies that are attributed to the dead person. Theindication of the occupants of the carriage is an indication that oneis usually has a company during death, and therefore Emily infersthat death might not be a single encounter as most people have beenmade to believe. She has indicated immortality as one of hercompanion in the carriage, even though immortality does not exist.She is, therefore, trying to infer that there is another life afterdeath and this might be sweeter than the kind of lifestyle that shehas lived in the world that is full of solitude and sadness(Dickinson, 10).
Inthis poem, Emily also indicates that an individual’s time of deathis unexpected and surprising, one should, therefore, be prepared tolive all their worldly riches and leisure as no one can predict thetime of their death, and therefore when it will come none of thatshall be considered, "And I had put away my labor and my leisuretoo"(Dickinson 07).Through this, she also tries to sound a warning to the living thatthey should be prepared to leave their riches, as when death comes,no amount of wealth can stop it and therefore riches cannot beconsidered. Death also does not select people, it goes with anybodythat he meets on his way (Shaw 20).
Apartfrom the expression of death as indicated in this poem, Emily alsoillustrates her understanding of the three different stages of lifethat one has to undergo before they finally die and the kind ofactivities that are inherent in such stages. For example, she picks"school, where children strove" to indicate the childhood,at a stage where the children are expected to be imparted witheducation. In the poem, "fields of gazing grains,"(Dickinson 11) to indicate the middle life or maturity where one isexpected to be productive in the society and finally the setting sunwhich refers to the old age where an individual might be suspectingthe arrival of his death.
Thewriter has also used this poem to configure his idea that life doesnot end after death and therefore, she gives herself of hope note toworry after her death because she expects more life to come after herdeath and even beyond. She depicts this by saying that "I firstsurmised the horses heads” (Dickinson 28) this is because thehorses usually point their heads towards an infinite direction in thesky while they are running, Emily, therefore, believes that there isan eternal life after death.
Dicksonhas also used this poem to put up her creativity and imagination byreflecting a temporal world in her death, which she calls eternity.Among the many religious groups that are existing today, it isbelieved that there is life after death, commonly referred to aseternity. However, it remains unclear on how the eternal life lookslike and also confirms if indeed such a life does exist. Through herimagination, Emily, therefore, gives an insight to the readers on howthe eternal life looks. She gives a clue to an enjoyable life afterdeath, "Tis Centuries and yet feels shorter than theDay"(Dickinson 26-27). The use of such an expression, therefore,gives an inference that the eternal life is very sweet and does nothave an end.
Asa way of expressing of her writing creativity, Dickinson has usedseveral symbols in this poem, and therefore, the readers must be ableto interpret them so that the can be able to gain insight into thedeeper meaning of the poem. Firstly, in spite of everyone being awareof the concept of death, she, therefore, makes it more interestingand strange by representing it in the form of a man, "he kindlystopped for me." She has therefore, represented what peopleunderstand as death, in the form of a man, who is gentle and caringto try to explain to the readers how real death might be like. Bylooking at the poem further, we realize that the writer has givendeath much of the human characters and therefore this deviates fromwe have always known as death being cruel. From this poem, we can,therefore, infer that the speaker didn`t die a cruel death but rathera slow death that was not painful in any way.
Thewriter has also used the carriage in which she was carried by deathas a metaphor to describe the way in which dead people make theirfinal passage into eternity. The description of the occupants of thiscarriage drugs our minds away from thinking that it is an old kind oftransportation tool that was used to transport goods (Shaw, 20). She,therefore, uses personification by mentioning immortality as theother company in the carriage and therefore this hints the readersthat this was a special type of carriage that was to carry thespeaker into her next life after death.
Dickinsonhas also used a house to indicate her final resting place after thelong journey with her suitor (death). In the normal life set up thefinal resting place for a dead person is the grave, but in this case,Dickinson, therefore, gives a good impression of the house to showthe readers that she is not regretting about her death. The house istherefore used symbolically to represent her grave, and thereforethis can also be seen as a sign of creativity and the mastery of thesubject in the poem. Emily’s choice of using a house to describethe grave is also a paradox, this is because a grave is a place thatmost people would not like to be taken, but to Dickinson, it appearsmore precious to her and that’s why she compares it to a house(Pannapacker, et al., 60).
Inthis poem, Dickinson has also applied other stylistic devices inwriting the poem such the use of rhymes, repetition, andcapitalization of the nouns as a form of stress in the poem. Forexample some of the words that rhymes are civility, eternity andfinally. She also repeated some words such as "we passed, and wepaused," helps in making the progress of the poem as well asmaking it uniform. Capitalization was used in the poem, it helps increating stress, poses the reader by slowing them down as they readthe poem (Otfinoski, 15). Dickinson has also used suspense in thispoem, as we read the poem, it does not come clear on who the speakeris, until the last stanza when we realize that she is a ghost.
EmilyDickinson decided to use a sound that is not noticeable or loud tothe readers in this poem, this makes it appear like the scene ofthese events is happening behind the backs of the readers, as eventhe sound of the moving horses cannot be heard. It can therefore bededucted that, Emily settled for a low sound in the poem to give aninsinuation about the world of the dead. In most cases people believethat there is life after death but no one can see what really happensto the dead people (Pannapacker 69). Dickinson has thereforeportrayed the same concept in this poem through the selection of anunnoticeable sound and therefore a reader who does not pay attentionmay not realize the presence of any sound in this poem. The meter inthis poem is attractive as it moves quietly and only focuses on theconversation inside the carriage but the sounds of the moving air andhorses is kept in the background.
Thegiven poem by Emily Dickinson about death had therefore been usedeffectively to demonstrate more about the circumstances that relateto death. In this poem the writer has selected topic (death) thatmost of the people or writers do not want to be associated with, asdeath is always seen as something that is cruel and robs people oftheir beloved ones? Emily Dickinson writing style is therefore aunique one as she has chosen a subject that everybody would want toavoid and beautifully used it to give a good impression about death.The writer has achieved this through the use of various symbols thathelp the readers to form a clear image of what the speaker isillustrating in the poem. The poem has implemented a variety ofstylistic devices and thus making it a compelling poem by both itsstructure and content. The given poem is, therefore, an example of aliterary device that can be used to give people more informationabout the death.
Dickinson,Emily, Thomas Herbert Johnson, and Theodora Ward. The Letters ofEmily Dickinson. Harvard University Press, 1986.
Kort,Carol. A to Z of American women writers. InfoBase Publishing, 2014.
Otfinoski,Steven. Native American Writers. InfoBase Publishing, 2010.
Pannapacker,William, and Tyler Hoffman. "Whitman and Dickinson."American Literary Scholarship 2009.1 (2009): 67-82.
Shaw,Mary Neff. "Dickinson`s Because I could not stop for Death."The Explicator 50.1 (1991): 20-21.
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