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Analysis of “Because I could not stop for death” by Emily Dickinson

In Emily Dickinsons, Because I could not stop for Death, the speaker personifies death as a polite and considerate gentleman (which is very ironic because by many people death is believed to be a dreadful event) who takes her in a carriage for a journey toward Eternity (l. 24); however, at the end of this poem, she finishes her expedition realizing that she has died many years ago.

In the first stanza, she begins her journey with a gentleman named Death who takes her along to the carriage the carriage held but just ourselves (l.3). Even though in the first line, the poet suggests of the speaker’s disappearance in the world (death, the event that takes life away, has being personified into a human form and is taking Dickinson away again as the carriage held but just ourselves suggests), nevertheless the speaker believes that she is still alive. With the use of the term Immortality (l. 4) the poet shows that at the beginning of her journey the speaker is young and enthusiastic to tell about her existence of life in the world and that she cannot think of dying.

In the second stanza, Death drives her so well (unhurriedly) we slowly drove, he knew no haste (l. 5) that it suggests pleasantness. For the pleasure he has given her, she rewards him by putting away her labor (her struggle) and leisure (her freedom) (I. 6) for his politeness civility (l. 8).

Symbolically, in stanza three, the poem signifies the three general stages of life: childhood represented by Children strove (l. 9), youth represented by the Fields of Gazing Grains (l. 11) and the end of the life symbolized by the Setting Sun (l. 12). On the way of her journey, the speaker views children struggling to win in the race in School. She also sees cereal grasses collectively in the field, and at last the speaker perceives with her eyes that the sun is setting on the way of her journey. This stanza gives us a clue of her passing by this world; however the speaker is realize that she has passing away. She simply believes the sun is setting on a regular basis.

The first line of stanza four Or rather, he passed us (l. 13) demonstrates that the speaker is uncertain about her existence in the world. Now she feels that her life symbolized by the sun is passing by. She becomes chilled by the dews (l. 14). Lines three and four in this stanza illustrate the reason for her coldness. The speaker is attired in a light Gown (l. 15) and cape or Tippet made of Tulle (l. 16), which is a kind of thin, transparent, open material. In the 19th century, when people died they are usually attired with this kind of dresses, and with this she figures out that she is dead.

Stanza five demonstrates that at the end of her journey, the poems speaker reaches Deaths home represented by the word house. The speaker views her own grave a swelling of the ground (l. 18). The third and fourth lines in this stanza The roof was scarcely visible, the cornice but a mound. (l. 19-20) emphasizes that she is buried in the earth. In stanza six, the speaker recalls that she had died on earth centuries ago, but she feels that time is “shorter than the Day” (l. 22) realizing that she is dead. The words of the final stanza such as surmised (l. 23) and toward eternity (l. 24) make it understandable that she is in a shocking situation at the end of her journey. It dawns on her that her journey is towards endless death: the horses heads/ Were toward eternity.” (l. 23-24).

Emily Dickinson uses a conflict relationship between reality and the speakers thought. At first, the speaker cannot realize that she has died. From the carriage, she sees her childhood, her youth, and then her final years. The over all tone of this poem seems mixed. It seems that Dickinson changes the tone along with the stanzas. In the first three stanzas, the tone is joyous and happy. In the fourth stanza, the tone seems to be contemplative; the speaker is confused about her existence in the world. However, in the last two stanzas, Dickinson uses a sad tone; the speaker perceives the reality, and becomes calm when she realizes her destiny.

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