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Emily Dickinson's Feelings About Death Revealed In Her Poem, Because I Could Not Stop For Death

2713 words - 11 pages

Emily Dickinson's Feelings About Death Revealed in Her Poem, Because I could not stop for Death


Emily Dickinson grew up in New England in the late 1800s. The nineteenth century was a difficult time period for the people of America. There was an abundance of war, epidemic, and death. Because her house was located beside a graveyard, Dickinson saw many of the elaborate funeral processions as they passed (Murray). Because of these experiences, death became very real to her, and it made a large impression on her life. Conrad Aikin, one of the many critics of Dickinson's work, believes that: "Death and the problem of life after death obsessed her" (15). She had a very peculiar idea about eternity that was unlike any of the traditional Christian ideas of that time period. Dickinson's strong feelings about death are expressed through hundreds of poems where she maximizes and characterizes many qualities of death. However, "Because I could not stop for Death" is one that receives a great deal of critical attention and causes a great deal of interest. In this poem, Dickinson uses personification and metaphors to develop the idea of death, which is a suitor arriving, and to reveal how doubtful the speaker is about the indefinite event of eternity. Through this poem, Dickinson allows the reader to see her feelings about death. She feels that no one can know for sure what will take place after death, and she believes the idea of eternity is unknown.

In "Because I could not stop for Death," the poet personifies death, making him a real person with human characteristics. For this reason, many consider this poem one of her greatest works. Chris Semansky has written a great deal about modern and postmodern literature. In the article "An Overview of 'Because I could not stop for Death,'" he speaks about Thomas Johnson's feelings relating to the poem: "'Because I could not stop for Death' is a superlative achievement where death becomes the greatest character in literature" (Semansky). Personification is a type of figurative language one uses to give abstract ideas human-like characteristics. Dickinson uses personification in this poem because it allows the reader to understand death in a more intimate way. Death became so real to her and to her contemporaries because of the time in which she lived. Through her life experiences, the poet became intimate with death. Because of all the disease and epidemics in her lifetime, many of her loved ones passed away. These deaths were very "intense breaks in her life" (Murray). Some critics suggest that the death of her cousin was the inspiration for this poem (Semansky). In any event, death had a large impact on Dickinson's life. This impact explains why she writes so descriptively about it. In this poem, death is personified as a gentleman caller taking the lady out for a carriage ride. This personification gives the reader a better image of the writer's idea of the coming of death.

Dickinson gives Death many...

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