Analysis of Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Emily Dickinson

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Analysis of "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson

The poets of the nineteenth century wrote on a variety of topics. One

often used topic is that of death. The theme of death has been approached in

many different ways. Emily Dickinson is one of the numerous poets who uses

death as the subject of several of her poems. In her poem "Because I Could Not

Stop for Death," death is portrayed as a gentleman who comes to give the speaker

a ride to eternity. Throughout the poem, Dickinson develops her unusual

interpretation of death and, by doing so, composes a poem full of imagery that

is both unique and thought provoking. Through Dickinson's precise style of

writing, effective use of literary elements, and vivid imagery, she creates a

poem that can be interpreted in many different ways.

The precise form that Dickinson uses throughout "Because" helps convey

her message to the reader. The poem is written in five quatrains. The way in

which each stanza is written in a quatrain gives the poem unity and makes it

easy to read. "I Could Not Stop for Death" gives the reader a feeling of

forward movement through the second and third quatrain. For example, in line 5,

Dickinson begins death's journey with a slow, forward movement, which can be

seen as she writes, "We slowly drove-He knew no haste." The third quatrain

seems to speed up as the trinity of death, immortality, and the speaker pass the

children playing, the fields of grain, and the setting sun one after another.

The poem seems to get faster and faster as life goes through its course. In

lines 17 and 18, however, the poem seems to slow down as Dickinson writes, "We

paused before a House that seemed / A Swelling of the Ground-." The reader is

given a feeling of life slowly ending. Another way in which Dickinson uses the

form of the poem to convey a message to the reader occurs on line four as she

writes, "And Immortality." Eunice Glenn believes that the word "Immortality"

is given a line by itself to show its importance (qtd. in Davis 107). Perhaps

the most notable way in which Dickinson uses form is when she ends the poem with

a dash. Judith Farr believes that the dash seems to indicate that the poem is

never ending, just as eternity is never ending (331). In conclusion,

Dickinson's form helps the reader begin to comprehend the poem.

Figurative language is one of the literary elements that Dickinson uses

to help convey hidden messages to the reader.
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