Emily Dickinson's Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Emily Dickinson's Because I Could Not Stop for Death

Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” is a remarkable masterpiece that exercises thought between the known and the unknown. In Dickinson’s poem, “Because I could not stop Death,” there is much impression in the tone, in symbols and in the use of imagery that over flow with creativity. One might undoubtedly agree to an eerie, haunting, if not frightening, tone and use of symbolism in Dickinson’s poem.

Dickinson uses controlling adjectives –“slowly” and “passed” – to create a tone that seems rather placid. For example, “We slowly drove –He knew no Haste / …We passed the School … / We passed the Setting Sun” (5,9,11,12), sets a slow, quiet, and clam atmosphere. The tone in Dickinson’s poem puts readers’ ideas on a track towards a boggling atmosphere.

Dickinson’s poem lives on complex ideas that are evoked through symbols, which carry her readers through her poem. Besides the literal significance of –the “School,” “Gazing Grain,” “Setting Sun,” and the “Ring” –much is gathered to complete the poem’s central idea. Dickinson brought to light the mysteriousness of the life cycle. The cycle of one’s life, as symbolized by Dickinson, has three stages and then a final stage of eternity. “Schools, where children strove” (9) may represent childhood; “Fields of Gazing Grain” (11), maturity; and “Setting Sun” (12) old age. In addition to these three stages, the final stage of eternity was symbolized in the last two lines of the poem, the “Horses Heads” (23), leading “towards Eternity” (24). Dickinson thought about the life cycle in terms of figurative symbols.

Dickinson describes the scene such that mental pictures of sight, feeling, and sound com...

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...ld not stop for Death," will leave many readers talking for years to come. This poem then, puts on immortality through an act of mere creativity. Indeed, creativity was captured at all angles in this striking piece.


Dickinson, Emily. "Because I could not stop for Death." The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford-St. Martin’s, 1997. 642-643. Greenaway, Kate.

"Ring-a-ring-a-roses." The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes. Ed. Iona and Peter Opie. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1951. 365. Greenberg, John M.

"Dickinson’s Because I could not stop for Death." Explicator. v49n4. Summer 1991. 218.

Monteiro, George. "Dickinson’s Because I could not stop for Death." Explicator. v46n3. Spring 1998. 20, 21.

Shaw, Mary N. "Dickinson’s Because I could not stop for Death." Explicator. v50n1. Fall 1991. 21.
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