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Emily Dickinson’s Because I Could Not Stop For Death

882 words - 4 pages

Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” is a remarkable masterpiece that exercises thought between the known and the unknown. Critics call Emily Dickinson’s poem a masterpiece with strange “haunting power.”

In Dickinson’s poem, “Because I could not stop for Death,” there is much impression in the tone, in symbols, and in the use of imagery that exudes creativity. One might undoubtedly agree to an eerie, haunting, if not frightening, tone in Dickinson’s poem. Dickinson uses controlling adjectives—“slowly” and “passed”—to create a tone that seems rather placid. For example, “We slowly drove—He knew no haste / …We passed the School … / We passed the Setting Sun—,” sets a slow, quiet, calm, and dreamy atmosphere (5, 9, 11, 12). “One thing that impresses us,” one author wrote, “is the remarkable placidity, or composure, of its tone” (Greenberg 128). The tone in Dickinson’s poem will put its readers’ ideas on a unifying track heading towards a boggling atmosphere. Dickinson’s masterpiece lives on complex ideas that are evoked through symbols, which carry her readers through her poem. Besides the literal significance of —the “School,” “Gazing Grain,” “Setting Sun,” and the “Ring”—much is gathered to complete the poem’s central idea.

Emily brought to light the mysteriousness of life’s cycle. Ungraspable to many, the cycle of one’s life, as symbolized by Dickinson, has three stages and then a final stage of eternity. These three stages are recognized by Mary N. Shaw as follows: “School, where children strove”(9) may represent childhood; “Fields of Gazing Grain”(11), maturity; and “Setting Sun” (12) old age” (21). In addition to these three stages, the final stage of eternity was symbolized in the last two lines of the poem, the “Horses Heads” (23), leading “towards Eternity” (24). Dickinson fathomed the incomprehensible progression of life by unraveling its complexity with figurative symbols. Emily Dickinson dresses the scene such that mental pictures of sight, feeling, and sound come to life. The imagery begins the moment Dickinson invites Her reader into the “Carriage.” Death “slowly” takes the readers on a sight seeing trip where they see the stages of life. The first site “We” passed was the “School, where Children strove” (9). Because it deals with an important symbol, —the “Ring”—this first scene is perhaps the most important. One author noted that “the children, at recess, do not play (as one would expect them to) but strive” (Monteiro 20).

In addition, at recess, the children performed a venerable ritual, perhaps known to all, in a ring. This ritual is called “Ring-a-ring-a-roses,” and is recited: Ring-a-ring-a-roses, A pocket full of posies; Hush! hush! hush! hush! We’re all tumbled...

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