Born on 10th December 1830, in the town of Amherst Massachusetts Emily Dickinson’s family was the pillar of the community. A crucial issue at the time was the issue of religion which to Emily was the all-important question. The Calvinist approach to religion believed that men were inherently sinful and most humans were doomed to hell. Only those who have faith in Jesus Christ would be saved. Emily could never accept the doctrine of original sin and ultimately she was left with a sense of exclusion from the established religion and thus is reflected in her poetry. This article will analyse the poem Because I could not stop for death analysis and give a deeper stylistic insight.
The most remarkable aspect of her poems is the use of dashes which leads to many different interpretations of her poems. She uses dashes as she lacks words to convey the meaning. Dickinson’s poetic brilliance lies in the meticulous selection of words to bring out the internal and external meanings. Dickinson did not deliberately want to break up the tradition of contemporaries but wanted freedom of thought and expression where she can pour out her feelings. She seems to follow the famous definition of poetry by the romantic poet William Wordsworth “poetry is the emotions recollected in tranquillity.”
The act of writing has always been considered a man’s privilege during the mid-19th-century Puritanical era. Women were trapped in male tax as mute objects of arts and suppressed within male inscribed ideologies. Emily Dickinson’s view of the patriarchal world reflects her leanings to transcendentalism which asserts the supremacy of mind over matter. Emergence concepts of transcendentalism like the oversoul individualism self-expression and self-reliance emerge in her poems especially, Because I could not stop for Death analysis.
Dickinson feminization oversoul to overcome female repression shows by her own secluded life and work that women can Transcend the cult of womanhood and that she can rejuvenate the repressed female self in the very same private sphere within which she is confined. Her poetry originates from the close basis of the private sphere that allows her to access the power and ability of reason.
Dickinson deals with the idea of humility in her frequent assertion of her own physical smallness. Dickinson represents that frailty of smallness in the same way in which society mistakenly victimizes women, it also mistakenly associates importance inability with size. Dickinson encounters this concept by intentionally utilising the concept of smallest to reject society’s association. to Dickinson, the smallest things are often the most important.
Because I Could Not Stop for Death Analysis- Theme of Death
Death is the most frequently used theme in her poems. what we mainly see in Dickinson’s poems is not the fear anguish tension and trauma that brings in her mind but it is the solace in her anxiety to accept that in order to end up this gruesome life and enter the state of immortality where one need not worry about the physical world. In short, she accepts that as a concrete fact any sensible fruit which is inevitable and should always be welcomed.
Death in Dickinson indicates a journey through time and experience. She has portrayed an image between the self that dispairs and the self that desire. To go through that gap is to go through a phase of terror which is scripted in her poems as a form of calm passing by. It is a passage that must be made before the desire can be realised. An ambiguous cluster of desire, separation, terror in Dickinson’s poetry is where the meaning-making process lies.
The most remarkable aspect in the poem Because I could not stop for Death analysis is her companion in mortality presented by death. that leads her to immortal, relieving her forever from the pain and suffering caused by mortality full stop. Her mind is so preoccupied with her companion that it doesn’t even care to know where they are going. Some critics believe that Emily Dickinson Because I could not stop for death analysis shows death as escorting the female speaker to an assured Paradise while others believe that death comes in the form of a deceiver.
Because I Could Not Stop For Death Analysis Line by Line
“Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
In the first stanza of Because I could not stop for Death analysis, the poet Emily Dickinson personifies death, portraying him as a gentleman suitor. Imagining death as a gentleman lover, she says that Death stopped his carriage, to take her to a state of immortality. Dickinson is not afraid by the idea of death, rather she welcomes death. The grimmer subject is that the carriage carries only two people, death and herself. Death doesn’t necessarily mean an end, rather it brings eternity. Death kindly comes in a carriage connoting respect/courtship accompanied by immortality.
Women during the mid 19th century were given no opportunity to write, so the subject of death assumes a profound meaning in the life of Emily Dickinson. The Puritanical religious construct along with patriarchy has cages the women within the confines of the house. But with death, their souls are free, thus showing an obsession for death.
“We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –”
Here the poet symbolically highlights the carriage ride to the author’s departure from life. Riding in a carriage with death, she asserts that Death wasn’t in a hurry, rather he slowly drove across every lane of memory that the author had. Dickinson is willing to go in the carriage with death alongside for which she has put all her labour and leisure aside. The poet further reveals that she was taken by the gentleman nature of death and that she was ready to take the journey with death to reach immortality.
By acknowledging that she has put her labour and leisure aside, the poet brings out two Christian imagery. Our work and how we choose to spend our time often defines our identities. While it is important to recognize God as the ultimate worker, the work that Christians do matters to God. So labour here connotes the hard work of an individual to earn his bread for the day. Whereas after the tiresome work for 6 continuous days, God rests on the 7th day. Here the poet gives up her claim on life. She is pleased with the exchange of life for death’s civility. Immortality silently drives along with them.
“We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –”
Dickinson is reminded of the time when she was a child as they passed across the school. She notices children’s ventures during their recess time, presenting a picture of nostalgia, now that she has accepted death. It creates a sense of motion and separation. Her passing through the fields shows the detachment of daily trolls that now she is free from. After passing by the school, the fields, they ultimately pass the setting sun. The literal meaning of the setting sun would suggest that the day has come to an end.
Dickinson’s meticulous selection of words makes her poem unique in style. The setting sun symbolises that death has arrived and that she is progressing her journey towards death. The poet shows no hysteria nor she has anxiety in experiencing death. Dickinson suggests death as a state of flux whereas life as the state of mobility.
“Or rather – He passed Us –
The Dews drew quivering and Chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –”
The poet realizes that rather than them passing the sun, the sun is passing the poet and the gentleman suitor, suggesting that she has lost all her power of independence. This sudden realization makes her feel death from close proximity. With the falling of dews, she quivers in the cold atmosphere, and her dress which is a Tippet made of gossamer and tulle is like a thin open net used for temporal covering.
The dress that the speaker wears suggest the transparent spiritual qualities that Dickinson had. She couldn’t accept the doctrines of the puritans which were too hard on a woman, made them feel like a caged bird. For her life is a journey full of problems. She believes that after death she could possibly reach the zone of imagination as she was unable to become a poet while she was alive. She asserts that for an artist immortality doesn’t die with time. The poet introduces the idea of relativity when she says, they pass the sun or the sun passes them as a metaphor for life.
We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –
After passing the school, the fields, the chariot ultimately pauses at a grave which the poet calls as home. The house is nothing but a swelling on the ground, which is the resting place of the poet’s body. She notices that the roof of the house was hardly visible across the four corners in the ground. This tombstone is where the speaker rests and watches the world externally.
Dickinson presents a strange description in describing her grave. We can notice the casualness in her tone like she is trying to give comfort to the idea of death. She intentionally projects a serious subject with a sudden strangeness. A house provides the comfort of familiarity, and her use of the house to describe a grave shows that the poet does not find any sense of anxiety in death.
“Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –”
Dickinson says that although it has been many years since her death, she feels that has hardly been a day. When she looked at the carriage and the horse, they seemed to be facing towards eternity, leaving her body in the grave. It is only the soul that accompanies death at the end of the journey that takes her to a life of eternity.
Dickinson in the poem Because I could not stop for Death analysis talks about life as the continuous nexus of structure that starts from the very moment of inception to reach a place beyond the physicality i.e eternity. She describes the three stages of life, ‘school’ representing the childhood days, ‘fields of gazing grain’ represents maturity and ultimately ‘the setting sun’ representing the old age or death. Dickinson challenges the Bible as she talks about life after death. She says that death leads to a fertile imagination and that an artist can ultimately negotiate with the bleak of shadows.
Many of Dickinson’s poems seem to be written in dramatic monologue, representing the various facets of human emotions. The primary features of her poetic style lie in her simplicity, shortness and precise selection of words and sentences. She discovered her own techniques, created new meanings for the words in a way to suit the requirements of her personal thoughts.
Because I Could Not Stop For Death- Stylistic Analysis
Dickinson uses various literary devices in her poem, Because I could not stop for Death poem, including the use of alliteration, allusion, personification and enjambment. Alliteration can be defined as “the occurrence of the same letter or sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words”. The /h/ sound in the second stanza, “He knew no haste”. Later in the stanza, “labour” and “leisure”. In the third stanza we notice a lot of alliteration being used by the poet:
We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –
Personification is where innate objects are treated as human, giving the characteristics of human attributes. Death is personified as a gentleman suitor, that comes in a carriage to take the speaker’s soul to eternity. Death is described as both kind and civil.