Emily Dickinson 's Because I Could Not Stop For Death Essay

Emily Dickinson 's Because I Could Not Stop For Death Essay

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Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” is a poem in which the speaker describes the day of her death and her passage from the living world to the afterlife and eternity. It personifies Death and Immortality in a way that establishes the overarching theme: Death is not something to be feared, but rather an inevitable change from one state of existence, our current physical reality, to another, that of the afterlife and immortality. Dickinson makes rich use of rhythm and imagery in order to convey this theme along with several underlying emotions and musings tied up with the notion of death.
“Because I could not stop for Death” does not follow any strict rhyme scheme, nor does it fall into a traditional form. The poem is six quatrains, each line of the first three stanzas alternating iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. This singsong pattern and rhythm lend it a playful feel to begin with, highlighting that it is just a carriage ride; there is nothing sinister or scary about Death. Indeed, the calmness and “Civility” of death causes the speaker to willingly accept it: “And I had put away / My labor and my leisure too, / For His Civility –” (6-8). The first line, and fifth: “We slowly drove – He knew no haste”(5), give clues as to the nature of the speaker’s death, presumably something slow such as old age or illness. The speaker was clearly too busy with life to stop and die, so Death has to stop and pick her up.
Together they pass by scenes representing the three stages of life: childhood, maturity, and old age. Dickinson chooses a literal representation of childhood with “Children strove / At recess…”(9-10), yet odd word choice in “strove”(9). To strive is to struggle and try very hard for something and is not...


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...lends it importance beyond that of Death. Death is a means, and Immortality the end, but what is Immortality? Immortality in Dickinson’s “Because…” is clearly a continuation of the speaker’s consciousness, as she remembers the day of her death and has an idea of the passing time since then (“’tis Centuries”(22)). Yet the speaker gives no clues as to what Immortality holds, or what one might do in Eternity. The mysterious nature of Immortality leaves readers still uncomfortable with the idea of death, particularly when coupled with the anomalous fourth stanza. While Death himself may take the form of a kindly gentleman, the act of dying holds more disquieting emotions of fear and discomfort as “The Dews drew quivering and chill – ”(14) clearly demonstrates. This poem reinforces that one should not fear Death, yet it does little to dispel the discomforts of Eternity.

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