Time Is Important Element Within Emily Dickinson 's `` Because I Could Not Stop For ``

Time Is Important Element Within Emily Dickinson 's `` Because I Could Not Stop For ``

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There is no way to know what came before the beginning of time because there was no time to measure it, and maybe that is why time is so essential in life, but what about death? Time is an important element within Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death—“ and “In this short Life that only lasts an hour” as it illustrates her experiences with both life and her imagined death. Dickinson’s use of meter, paradox, punctuation, and diction reimagines the measurability of time in life and death, suggesting that the ability to measure time translates into power and once that ability is taken away, powerlessness follows.
In “Because I could not stop for Death—”, Dickinson uses paradox to describe the journey through the afterlife in terms of infinite time, leaving the speaker powerless as time no longer truly exists and cannot be measured. Death escorts the speaker ‘toward[s] Eternity’ (line 24); a rather contradicting idea considering the destination has no beginning or end. This journey that the speaker takes with Death, as well as Immortality, appears almost eternal in itself. When capitalized, Eternity is seen as a place rather than an idea. ‘Immortality’ is also capitalized in the fourth line, but like Death, is personified as a passenger of the carriage ride and an extension of her soul. It’s important to note, however, that Immortality and Eternity are not synonymous. No longer in the physical world, the speaker’s soul is immortal and will now forever accompany her through her new journey. Professor Mark Spencer of Southeastern Oklahoma State University sees this distinction as well in his essay “Dickinson’s ‘Because I could not stop for Death’”, stating, “The end of earthly existence is but the first stage in a two...


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...so be seen in the very last line where the poem ends with a dash. Although there are no lines following, the dash extends the poem into infinity, never connecting to anything else, suggesting the events in the poem are still happening now. There are only two dashes used in “[In this short Life that only lasts an hour],” and they are not used to slow down anything. In fact, this poem differs from most of Dickinson’s poetry, as it is only two lines rather than a series of quatrains. Greg Sevik, literary journalist and English professor at Le Moyne College, states that “[Dickinson’s] verses usually appear in short-lined quatrains” resulting in a musicality and rhythm unique to Dickinson (26). The fact that this poem deviates from this rhythm, not even completing a quatrain, shows an abrupt end to something expected to be longer, much like how life “only lasts an hour”.

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