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“Because I Could Not Stop For Death” Was Written By

1071 words - 4 pages

"Because I Could Not Stop for Death" was written by Emily Dickinson in 1863. She was thirty-three years old. The loss of friends and family made death a powerful subject in Emily's mind. This poem is a reflection of her effort to understand and cope with the mystery of death. An excerpt from the book "Heaven Beguiles the Tired : Death in the Poetry of Emily Dickinson" supports this theory by stating "The remark to her Norcross cousins that she "sang off charnel steps" ( II, 436) is a further indication that the poet herself knew that death, and more particularly a fear of it, was a prime motivating force in her creative work."(Ford, p. 176) Emily Dickinson shows the reader a unique view on life, death and immortality in "Because I Could Not Stop for Death". The first stanza introduces the three characters in this poem. The speaker appears preoccupied with her own concerns when "Death"(1) arrives. "Death"(1) is personified as a "kindly"(2) gentleman. He stops for the speaker when she "could not stop"(1) for him. The tone of the first three stanzas is calm and matter of fact. The speaker is not frightened by "Death"(1), but describes him as if he is a friend. It is ironic that the speaker joins him in the carriage, which is symbolic for a hearse. Death is usually seen as something both somber and terrifying, yet she joins him as she would a suitor. "Immortality"(4) is mentioned in the last line of this stanza as the third passenger, but is given no physical or emotional description. This may demonstrate that "Immortality"(4) is too ethereal of a concept to compose into a solid character. The tone continues to be mild and somewhat reassuring in the second stanza. The speaker describes the carriage traveling "slowly"(5). "Death"(1) is once again portrayed as patient and considerate with these words "He knew no haste"(5). The reader may have the sense that "Death"(1) knows something that the speaker does not. Therefore, he is in no hurry to arrive at a destination. Alliteration is used throughout the poem. The first instance is in the words "labor"(7) and "leisure"(7).These words portray the speaker's effort to put away the cares of life in deference to her journey with "Death"(1). She remarks on "His Civility"(8). End rhyme ties the words "Immortality"(4), "Civility"(8) and "Eternity"(24) together. The lines of the third stanza represent the cycle of life and death. The word "passed" (9-11-12) is mentioned in three lines of this stanza. The use of this word reminds the reader of the speaker's awareness of her own mortality. A beginning of life is symbolized in the first line with "children"(9) striving or playing at "School"(9). The "Ring"(10) symbolizes the never ending circle of life. The latter season of life is depicted with the alliteration "Gazing Grain"(11). Another alliteration, "Setting Sun"(12) signifies that the speaker's journey is nearing an end. Halfway through the poem, in the fourth stanza to be exact, the...

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