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Analysis of Because I Could Not Stop For Death Essay


Because I Could Not Stop For Death

By Emily Dickinson

One of Emily Dickinsons most famous poems is Because I Could Not Stop For Death. Dickinson wrote this poem with such ambiguity that spiritual people, as well as people who are not, are able to relate to the poem.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death is the opening line which tells the reader that they need to be paying attention and that the author is not ready to die. In the next line, He kindly stopped for me, Dickinson tells the reader how death will come on its own time but is always ready. The word kindly is odd when used in conjunction with death. This gives us the image of a quiet and peaceful passing. In the third line, we see that Death has picked her up in a carriage which symbolizes transferring a corpse to its grave site. The carriage also represents something on a larger scale - lifes journey and her ascension to heaven. The first stanza ends with the short line, and immortality, which means that they are most likely thinking about living forever in Heaven. This solidifies the point that she has passed.

The second stanza starts with We slowly droveHe knew no haste. This tells the reader how death is slowly taking her like a carriage in a funeral procession where the hearse travels slowly. This line is ambiguous as well. Death takes his time as she reviews her memories. This slow drive also represents her slow ascension to heaven. The next two lines, And I had put away My Labor and my leisure too, tell us that since she is dead she no longer has any duties. She accepts her death, so she put away her labor and leisure. This stanza ends with, In his civility. This last line tells us that she is alone and her only company is Death and he is giving her a personal escort to eternal life.

In the third stanza, the lines, We passed the school, where children strove at recessIn the Ring, are ambiguous. She is literally passing by a school while children are at recess, causing her to relive her childhood memories. She is reminded that she is no longer young but is instead withering away. We passed the fields of grazing grain, is the third line of the stanza. Fields symbolize fertility. This line represents her remembering days in which she was fertile and that she is now leaving the earth behind. The last line of the stanza, We passed the setting sun, The setting sun always represents the end of the day and, in this poem, the end of life.

The line Or ratherHe passed us explains how the authors body stays on earth but her spirit continues to travel with Death. The dews grew quivering and chill expresses a grave-like feeling, and how she grows cold along with her memories. The next line talks of gossamer gown, a symbol for a burial shroud, which gives the illusion of a ghost. The next line, My TippetMy Tulle, continues the image of a burial gown.

The fifth stanza starts, We paused before a house that seemed / A swelling of the Ground. It stands out to me that they paused before a house. It is actually her new home, a place of burial. The second line, A swelling of the ground, paints a picture of a fresh grave site. The roof was scarcely visible The corniceIn the ground. Dickinson says the roof is in the ground, which shows us that her new house is her casket. The last stanza, Since thentis centuriesand yet, explains how long it has been since she passed. She says it has been centuries since she has died, yet there is no way to determine its accuracy.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each Feels shorter than the day I first surmised the horses' heads were toward eternity. Each passing century seems shorter than the day she passed. In the last two lines, I first surmised the horses heads, Dickinson uses horses to create the illusion that horses led her to heaven. The last line, were toward eternity, tells us the horses destination.

Symbolism plays a major role in Dickinsons Because I Could Not Stop For Death. The major symbol that recurs throughout the poem is death which is personified. It performs human actions such as waiting, driving, and being civil. By reading this poem, I viewed death in a positive light. The second symbol is the carriage, and it is used as a vehicle. This vehicle carries the speaker, death, and immortality. While carrying the speaker to death, they pass a playground and a grain field which symbolize the speakers childhood and memories and her years of fertility. The next symbol the reader encounters is the sunset, which is used to show the passage from life to death. When the sun sets the earth gets cold, like when death comes upon the earth. The fourth symbol in the poem is the house, the speaker's final resting place. Dickinson uses a house to symbolize her grave and new home. The last critical symbol is the horses heads. Horses were the authors main mode of transportation, which symbolizes that the horses are leading her to heaven.

Alliteration was a literary device used. In the seventh line, Mylabor, andmyleisure too, in line tenAtrecess, in thering, in line eleven gazinggrain, in line twelve settingsun, in line fifteen For onlygossamer mygown, and in line sixteen Mytippet onlytulle, are all examples of alliteration. Repetition was also used. The line We passed the is repeated three times to show the passing of time. It sets a timeline for the process of her death.

In conclusion, Dickinson uses ambiguity to give readers the option to interpret the poem spiritually or in a more concrete manner.

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