Emily Dickinson was raised in a Calvinist household, allowing her to establish a strong religious foundation at a young age. (Walker, 1985). She attended religious services with her family as well as private bible readings on the Dickinson homestead. (Walker, 1985). Emily was taught to believe in the existence of Heaven and Hell, and this belief is apparent in her poem “Because I Could Not Stop For Death.” This work is a first-person narration in which the female narrator cleverly reminisces over her own death after living in Heaven for centuries. Her account of her own death is unusual because her strange descriptions contradict several misconceptions associated with death, specifically that dying is a terrifying experience. In this twenty-four lined masterpiece, Dickinson included an extended metaphor comparing death to a carriage ride to prove her opinion that death is not to be feared because an afterlife exists.
In this poem, the carriage driver is literally Death. When individuals visualize a tangible death character, most think of a terrifying being hidden beneath a black cloak carrying a scythe, much like the Grim Reaper. Dickinson greatly transformed this depiction of death by using unusual description of it. The narrator of the poem stated that the carriage driver “kindly stopped” (Dickinson, 1094) when he picked the narrator up to take her to her “swelling in the ground.” (Dickinson, 1094). Readers notice immediately that the storyteller, who is probably Dickinson herself, is not afraid of death because she does not try to run from the friendly carriage driver. Dickinson created a mental image of a sweet and chivalrous character that is representative of death. Her abnormal descriptions of this character “death” illustrate her opinion that individuals should not be frightened by the concept of death.
While the narrator was riding in the carriage with Death, she was reminiscent, and she reflected about her life from her childhood to her death,...
Cited: Dickinson, Emily. “Because I Could Not Stop For Death.” The Bedford Introduction to
Literature. Ed. Michael Myer. 8th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2008. 1094. Print.
Walker, Nancy. “EMILY DICKINSON.” Research Guide to Biography & Criticism. 1985: 346.
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