Because I Could Not Stop for Death

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Read over "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson.

1. List as many examples of metaphors and similes as possible.

The carriage, in stanza 1, is a metaphor for a hearse.
When they “passed the setting sun” (12) it implies that she has finally died.
When they “paused before a house that seemed / A swelling of the ground” (17-18), the word house is a metaphor for grave.

2. Explain the personification.

In Emily Dickinson's poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, death is personified in an unusual way. Instead of the expected dark, evil, Grim-reaper depiction of death, Dickinson portrayed him as more of a gentleman. Death became a character, able to carry out a human action, who “kindly stopped” (2) for the speaker, since she could not stop for him. He's described as a man who “knew no haste” (5), a courteous fellow. Another example of personification is when we discover that Immortality has decided to tag along for the carriage ride, as Death and Immortality seemingly go hand in hand. Lastly, Dickinson utilized personification, when she wrote, “We passed the setting sun. / Or rather, he passed us” (12-13). The sun is called a he instead of an it, and is reported as being able to pass the speaker and Death. Dickinson's use of this literary device, especially the personification of death, leads the reader to take a different approach in the way they think about the afterlife: a calmer, more accepting view of one's passing to whatever lies beyond the grave.

3. Choose two symbols in the poem and explain them as thoroughly as possible.

1. In stanza two, the speaker told how she and Death “paused before a house that seemed / A swelling of the ground” (17-18). The first thought that crossed my mind: Hey, it's a H...

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...h picks up the speaker in a horse drawn carriage “And Immortality” (4) joins them. The poet is implying that with death comes immorality, just not of the sort that one reads about in Twilight novels. Indeed, Dickinson is not referring to temporal perpetuity, but a spiritual eternity. Besides that, earthly pleasures and acts appear to have lost their appeals for the speaker. When she tells of how they “passed the school, where children strove / At recess, in the ring”, notice how the word strove is used in place of the word play, indicating that life is a struggle. Death “kindly stopped for [her]” (2), and she though him very civil for doing so. The last intriguing aspect to this poem is the way Dickinson wrote it so that it included no allusions to anything specifically religious, any reader, no matter their beliefs, could in someway relate to the theme of the poem.
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