November 7th, 2014
Immortality's Role in Emily Dickinson's Poem, "Because I Could Not Stop For Death"
Death, like a ghostly breath, is subtle, quiet, and nearly undetectable. Around the world, humans tend to have an irrational fear of death because of the conditioning effect that it's countless negative connotations have had on them. In the poem, "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," Emily Dickinson thoughtfully reflects on death and masterfully reverses the connotations and stereotypes associated with death through the personification of it, the use of the forward-motion-language in the poem, and the importance of immortality.
Death is personified as a gentleman suitor who has come to take the speaker on a joyride in his carriage. As the speaker begins to interact with Death, the reader begins to realize that his arrival is marked with a noticeably positive attitude in the speaker's tone. Through the title "Because I could not stop for Death," Dickinson raises the question of why the speaker could not stop. The obvious answer is that the speaker is engulfed in her own life that she could not think about nor have time for death. The speaker had to, "put away (her) labor and...leisure too" (lines 6-7). When describing Death further, she makes it clear that he is inescapable and actively seeks us out when she says, "He kindly stopped for me" (line 2). Dickinson effectively causes the reader to develop and maintain a positive attitude towards the personified version of Death by her careful use of words and the development of the speaker's tone.
Throughout the poem, Dickinson uses the language and structure of the poem to convey a forward-motion effect, and it is especially evident when the speaker and Death are both riding in the carriage. Their journey is filled with rich symbolism that describe the different stages of life that humans experience. For example, the phrase, "passed the...
Cited: Dickinson, Emily. "Because I Could Not Stop For Death." Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 2005. 427.
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