Analysis of "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson is a well renowned in feminist literature and she epitomizes revolt against the conventions and strict strictures of society and religion. As Doriani also states,
Almost all feminist critics have assumed that Dickinson was distanced from the repressive nineteenth-century American culture around her including her religious heritage. Similarly, religious critics of Dickinson’s poetry have generally seen Christianity as a negative influence on her work, either limiting her in some way or, more often, stimulating her to protest against her theological heritage (2).

Another important aspect of her poetry is the theme of death, which has been extensively used in her works as she was writing during wartime, and she had suffered the loss and faced the deaths of her many loved ones.

The poem “Because I could not stop for death” depicts an individual’s meeting with death disguised as a gentleman. The anonymous stranger takes a ride in a carriage with this gentleman moving through the city and finally reaches her own grave and the truth about her death is revealed to the readers i.e. she has been dead for a long time.

The poem is written in the form of quatrains with a rhyme scheme of ABCD however the rhyme scheme of the fifth stanza differs from the rest of the poem i.e. ABCB. The poet makes use of simple diction and amalgamates short and long sentences which sets a fast pace for the reading of the poem. In this poem, death has been personified as a gentleman. Dickinson incorporates various important symbols in the poem as well such as the carriage and sunset. The carriage symbolizes man’s final journey towards death. It is a mode of transportation to take man from this transient world to the world of eternity. Sunset is another symbol for death it represent the approaching darkness i.e. death which is going to engulf the passenger.

The most prevalent theme in the poem is the theme of death. This theme also has a lot of autobiographical significance in Dickinson’s works. As Dietrich also believes that, “Dickinson’s attitude towards dying is at times ambivalent and shifts from denial to acceptance and finally embracement a large number of her poems deal with man’s inability to accept the reality of death and the confusion and disbelief that he experiences in its presence” (3). Consequently, in this poem as well the manner in which the author deals with death is very interesting as in the beginning the writer is only a passenger for a ride and then gradually she starts to panic and finally embraces or realizes that she has been dead for a long time. As it is also stated in the text, “The carriage held but just ourselves, And Immortality…Since then tis centuries” (Dickinson, 712).

Works Cited
Dickinson, Emily. Poems by Emily Dickenson Volume 3. Oxford: Hayes Barton Press, 1995. Print.
Dietrich, Nina. Emily Dickinsons Death Poetry. Munich: GRIN Verlag, 2003. Print.
Doriani, Beth Maclay. Emily Dickenson Daughter of Prophecy. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 1996. Print.

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