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Themes of Death and Immortality in Emily Dickinson's Poetry

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Throughout Emily Dickinson’s poetry there is a reoccurring theme of death and immortality. The theme of death is further separated into two major categories including the curiosity Dickinson held of the process of dying and the feelings accompanied with it and the reaction to the death of a loved one. Two of Dickinson’s many poems that contain a theme of death include: “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” and “After great pain, a formal feeling comes.” In Dickinson’s poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Dickinson portrays what it is like to go through the process of dying. According to Mark Spencer of the Explicator, the speaker portrays death as a two-step process. It is said that this particular poem makes more sense if read from the perspective that reconciliation with God is a delayed process. In this poem the speaker has ended their existence on earth but have yet to reach the final step. The horses are pulling the carriage “toward Eternity” which suggests that the final step has yet to be reached. The speaker says that “Centuries” feel “Shorter than the day” implying that although an end will come, it will not come soon. Although the end is said not to come soon, it will seem like nothing to those who have passed. A grave site is compared to a house when the carriage passes a “Swelling in the ground”, because indeed the speaker will stay in this home until her final day comes. The speaker then becomes “quivering and chill” wearing her thin flimsy clothing but then realizes that the clothing has become appropriate for what is to come. The speaker indicates that the carriage is only pausing because the current state she is in is only temporary (Spence). It is said that the speaker looks death in the eye and escapes ... ... middle of paper ... ...ause I Could Not Stop for Death” Dickinson portrays her feelings of death and dying through the eyes of the dying. In this poem, the reader learns what it is like to experience death. In “After great pain, a formal feeling comes,” Dickinson personifies death and the feelings accompanied with it. Although the deceased has no feelings, Dickinson compares the two to help gain a better understanding of the feelings accompanied with the loss of a loved one. Works Cited Engle, Patricia. "Dickinson's "'Because I Could Not Stop for Death"." The Explicator (2002): 72. Manley, Francis. "An Explication of Dickinson's "After Great Pain"." Modern Language Notes (1958): 260-264. Shaw, M.N. "Dickinson's 'Because I Could Not Stop for Death'." The Explicator (1991): 20. Spence, Mark. "Dickinson's" Because I Could Not Stop for Death"." The Explicator (2007): 95.
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