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Emily Dickinson and Death

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Emily Dickinson and Death

Emily Dickinson was one of the most renowned American poets of the 19th century, and one of the United State's greatest in its entire history. She wrote about many topics, but in terms quantity, death, immortality, and exclusion were very, if not the most, common topics she wrote about. She approached death in a variety of different ways in her writing. She saw death and the journey and conclusion of life as something beautiful, warm, and yet lonely and cold in the imagery of "Because I could not stop for Death." Infamous for her introspectiveness and her introverted lifestyle, it comes as no surprise that such an intelligent woman really examined death so thoroughly as to compose such beautiful and poignant poetry that held such a firm grasp in what message she was trying to convey. This essay will be looking at the aforementioned poem and its varied ways on expressing the transition of life into death.

In "Because I could not stop for Death," Death is immediately personified and becomes an actual character of the poem. Death's role, although obvious on some levels, is still open for interpretation. He's described by the speaker as one with "kindness" and "civility," and his driving slowly might be a direct expression of consideration and tact for her sake. These qualities are often used to describe a gentlemen or a polite suitor, which would make Immortality (who is also accompanying them yet is completely mute) a silent chaperone of sorts. Death may also have more deceitful, subverted intentions. His kindness of stopping for her and his gentlemanly manner may be some attempt to seduce her into coming with him ("put away/My labor and my leisure too"). The speaker also points out she isn't properly dressed for the long journey ("For only gossamer my gown/My tippet only tulle.") suggesting the brief encounter and joining of death happened so quickly as to not leave her time to prepare. Immortality, then, might be some form of accomplice to Death's schemes, or he himself, never actually beginning to exist or having the capacity to die, is trapped in his own endless cycle inside the carriage, with Death manning the reigns.

The drive itself symbolizes her leaving our world. She describes the things she sees as she sees them (Passing where "children strove," the "gazing grain" is ripe, and the "setting sun"), all the while unknowingly (or knowingly) witnessing these same events that can be seen as metaphors of her own journey of life. These images of ripe grain and children at school juxtapose their futurity against her passing into death, as well as an irony of her passiveness and inactivity inside the carriage and the vivaciousness of the children outside. The gerund "passing" is used multiple times in the third and fourth stance. They are



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