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Commentary on "Because I could not stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson

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Introduction

5th of January, 2012 Kristoffer L. Engkilde 11th grade ?Because I could not stop for Death? Emily Dickinson?s ?Because I could not stop for Death? is a remarkable poem that outlines both the journey of life and the journey of death, and how whether we want it or not, we have to face death at some point. Surprisingly, Dickinson expresses a calm and accepting tone towards Death as she personifies him as a cordial suitor escorting the speaker to her grave. Through imagery and other literary devices, Dickinson portrays the speakers past life as she is taken by Death ?towards eternity.? The setting is immediately established as a changing one as the speaker rides along a ?carriage [together with Death] and Immortality? to her grave. ?Because I could not stop for Death? metaphorically establishes dying as a pleasant drive in a carriage, much like the higher classes trips in the 19th century. Death, being a separate entity, ?kindly? takes her on a long journey with him and immortality. The female speaker is long dead in the real world as she mentions how ?this century feels shorter than the day? she realized she was going to die. Yet, she is still alive in a secondary world, where she lives a pleasant life. ...read more.

Middle

In one stanza, Dickinson has managed to encapsulate the speaker?s entire life, and as she does this, she ultimately highlights that all life must come to an end, just like the sun that rises, reaches its peak, and ultimately sets down. As she travels further down the road, the reader realizes that she seems to have accepted death as she is wearing only a ?gossamer? and ?tippet,? something generally associated with a wedding. By associating death with a wedding, she creates an image of death as a new beginning rather than the end. Although at the instant, the thought of death may seem frightening, we have to accept death, and take the afterlife as a new beginning towards a life of happiness. By wearing a wedding dress, it creates an image of a wedding as she marries Death, and Death takes care of her in her new life. Death is not some relentless figure but rather a caring person that takes care of all his ?victims.? Lastly, as she arrives at her grave, Dickinson refers to the grave as ?a House that seemed / A Swelling of the Ground.? This more humane image helps make death seem comforting and nice rather than something to be feared. ...read more.

Conclusion

In the first two lines of stanza four, as ?dews drew quivering and chill,? there is an abnormality as the meter does not follow the rest of the poem. Here, the speaker realizes that just like the sun must come down, she too must leave the physical world sooner or later. Death is now reality, and as she realizes that, there is a break in the poem to mirror the unpleasant chills that the speaker feels. The use of iambic meter throughout the whole poem also serves to create a lively and joyous feeling rather than one of sorrow. The length of the journey is highlighted by the use of anaphora. The repetition of the clause ?we passed? serves to highlight the many things they saw on their journey and the sounding repetition helps to join the events as one unit that they passed on their long journey. She also uses alliteration in all of the lines in stanza three to signify that they are all similar and intertwined together as one whole life, where what one does in one stage of their life affects all the other stages of one?s life. To conclude, Dickinson?s portrayal of death is a paradoxical one of kindness rather than fear as she comforts the reader about the inevitable. By metaphorically relating death to a carriage ride, she redefines our belief in a pleasant eternal afterlife, where life still carries on in a secondary world. ...read more.

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