“Because I Could Not Stop For Death” Analysis The poem, “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” by Emily Dickinson presents captivating themes on the cycle of life, time, and death. The first two lines, “Because I could not stop for death – / He kindly stopped for me – “ (Dickinson 679; Stanza 1, Line 1 & 2), capture the poem’s central theme, but the interpretations of that theme vary widely. This variation would have to do with how one would interpret Death. The three varied elements that are used to describe the theme are the civil character of Death, how Death has to do with the eternal life and, and ailing through time in order to look back at seeing the positives of living every day life. One would say that Death describes a scenario as dreadful, or unpleasant. However, the underlying meaning of Death is the exact opposite in this poem. The narrative subject of the poem finds herself to be immersed, and too involved with the humdrum of everyday living. From the subject’s point-of-view, the character Death is a like a civil gentleman who interrupts her in order to remove her thoughts of everyday living. The poem is not meant to portray Death as something evil, but ather as someone civilized and gentlemanly, kindly stopping to offer her a carriage ride to her destination. Dickinson’s use of familiar language and colloquial tone convey her attitude that death and dying are not to be feared. In the first stanza, the narrative figure begins to view Death as a mysterious friend that guides her through her thoughts. When one first thinks of Death, an image of a grim reaper or a figure of evil is projected. However, such is not the case in this poem. Figuratively speaking, this poem is about a woman who goes on a date with Death.
Dickinson uses the personification of Death as a metaphor throughout the poem. Here, Death is described as a civil gentleman, perhaps handsome and well groomed, who makes a call at the home of a naive young woman. She stated that, “He kindly stopped for me” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 1, Line 2). The point that the narrative figure tries to make is the gentle nature of Death. This woman has been so caught up with the stresses of living that she hasn’t been able to take the time to know what Death’s true intentions are. She decides to give Death a chance because he becomes intrigued to find herself in this gentleman’s favor. In the second stanza, we find out that the narrative figure keeps herself busy without realizing the good intentions of death. The young woman comments about his “Civility” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 2, Line 8). She appears to be enticed to Death’s charm, as well as his good manners. Her potential stereotypical expectations about Death would be entirely false. The expectations of Death are described as evil, rotten, and dangerous. However, she has been proven wrong. His chivalrous behavior had made the young woman feel trustworthy and safe.
This all ties in to the woman to give Death a chance, and show her that living everyday life can be a great experience. All that she needs to do is put trust on Death. After she does this, she begins to journey off with the mysterious figure. In the third and fourth stanza, the narrative figure looks at time as a way to repress her memories of being alive and working. Death’s passenger is not very concerned with his pleasant company, but rather trying to figure out the meaning of what the purpose is of living as the journey goes on. In spite of the fact that she “put way” (Dickinson 679, Stanza 2, Line 6) her “labor” (Dickinson 679, Stanza 2, Line 7) and “leisure” in the previous stanza, she still remains lost by her experiences in the mortal world. This is most likely, because she has been exposed to them for almost a lifetime. In addition, she has been so stressed and busy with the hustle and bustle of daily living. She hasn’t taken the time to realize the meaning of life experiences. Some examples of images that she sees while she is on her journey with Death are: children playing, wheat growing, and the sun setting.
The children that she sees playing “in the Ring” have a major influence of human beings because they symbolize eternity. The wheat that grows symbolizes the natural world as she currently views it. However, as time changes, the grain appears to be “gazing” at her, or observing her with much interest. The “setting sun” represents the life clock, which is also known as the thing that humans measure as the amount of time left to live on earth. As time passes by, she passes with Death into another phase or dimension. This all ties into what the young woman strives to do. As she journey’s ith Death, she relates everything that she does in every day living as something she would still see when she is already dead. She tries to repress the stress of living, but tries to think about it in a positive way. She temporarily loses herself in a wonderland, where she imagines that everything she sees when she travels with Death is a pleasant experience. Afterwards, she then tries to think positively of what she can do to feel the same way when she is alive. As this happens, she spots significant symbols that represent her life. In the fifth stanza, the narrative figure uses euphemism as a way to ymbolize the mysterious places that she encounters at her time of death. As she makes her journey, she first describes the “House” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 5, Line 17). It is used to describe a grave where her body will be put as she proceeds through her journey. She describes this house as a “Swelling of the Ground,” which represents an image of a fresh burial plot. The “Cornice,” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 5, Line 20) also known as the ornamental molding near the roofline, is slightly seen through the ground. One thing that she doesn’t describe is how long they “paused” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 5, Line 17) there.
This is another way to understand the underlying meaning of Death. Euphemism is a way of defining something in a more pleasant way, rather than facing the possible harshness of it. This ties into what the meaning of Death is in this poem, because the terms that Emily Dickinson use to substitute the places that the main character goes through while she is in a state of death are imagined as a fascinating, memorable experience. However, the main character becomes a bit dumbfounded by her surroundings and begins to question about why her entire experience of being with Death is a good thing, and not a bad hing. While she contemplates, her journey still remains a mystery. In the sixth stanza, Death’s underlying meaning becomes a beneficial influence when it is known as something that lasts forever. In these final lines, Dickinson has attempted to describe what is unknown about the meaning of Death. In the poem, the narrative figure, “surmised” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 6, Line 23) meaning that she guesses, through intuition, the answer to human existence. She also looks at the heads of the horses and sees that they are directed “toward Eternity” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 6, Line 24).
The young woman finally realizes the true meaning of Death. Living life can be stressful, but at the same time be a rewarding experience. Looking back at her encounter with Death, her view on living life dramatically changes. As naive as the young woman is, she puts her trust on Death by agreeing to take her to her desired destinations. Recalling that Death is stereotypically known as something evil, it really is not because Death can potentially lead on into an eternal life of happiness. The civilized gentleman, who is like the woman’s personal guardian tells her living life is reward within itself ecause the stresses she currently faces while she is alive will only come back to haunt her in the afterlife. In other words, death is a rewarding because of hard work and dedication to one’s life. Everything bad is forgotten, and the young woman begins to look at death as an eternal reward of happiness. The formal elements of the poem emphasize the narrative figure’s positive experience with Death, and relating it to every day living. For example, the stanzas contain four-lied alternations of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. The rhyme chemes in the poem contain some slant rhyme and metrical irregularity. Dickinson’s purpose of composing the poem this way was to suggest the hesitations and nervousness of the young woman upon first meeting a suitor with whom she was not fully acquainted. The rhyme scheme also lends the poem euphemism, symbolizing the civil and pleasant character of Death, as well as the journey that the young woman describes alongside Death. The three main elements of the poem are: the civil character of Death, how Death has to do with the eternal life and, and sailing through time in order to look back at eeing the positives of living every day life. For example in Stanza 1, the narrative figure describes “kindly” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 1, Line 2) as a way Death was treating her. The journey was described as something that can “put away” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 2, Line 6), the stresses of every day life. The words “house” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 4, Line 17), and “cornice” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 4, Line 20), also bring to mind negative thoughts about dying. However, while there were moments of nervousness and stress, the dominating theme in this poem is that death and dying are not to be feared.
Even if Death generally represents a negative image, it represents the exact opposite view in the poem. This aspect is that while living can be stressful, and overwhelming, it can be a “kindly” (Dickinson 679; Stanza 1, Line 2), because of hard work and dedication to one’s life. The term, “kindly” is used to describe the positive view of what to expect when Death arrives. Death wants the young woman to open her eyes and see that living every day life is a reward and that it will also be a reward when one dies. In this powerful poem, Dickinson demonstrates three important aspects of eath: the civil character of Death, how Death has to do with the eternal life and, and sailing through time in order to look back at seeing the positives of living every day life. “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” challenges readers to put themselves in the young woman’s shoes. The stress, and frustration of living every day life is something that everyone can relate to. Death can be very “kindly. ” This particular description is powerful enough to demonstrate and emphasize that dying can be a pleasant experience, because it is about taking a leap into the unexpected.
The unexpected can always be a positive experience when one sees a meaning of something with unbiased eyes. This inspires readers that we, as a human race should live life to the fullest, because there is a reward that awaits when Death comes and gets us. This is how the young woman sees the true meaning of Death. It is eternal life that projects everyday experiences, and turns them into something wonderful that no one would ever dare expect. After giving “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” a full analysis, one can fully agree that death and dying are not to be feared.