Because I Could Not Stop For Death

Essay by 2hvy4grvty December 2007

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Emily Dickinson wrote "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" in 1863. It is a ballad with six stanzas of four lines each, or six quatrains. There is no set rhyme scheme, because each of the lines is enjambled. The meter of the poem alternates after each line between iambic tetrameter and iambic trimester.

The theme of Because I Could Not Stop For Death is that human death, while unavoidable, is not as harsh and dreadful as many believe it to be. The speaker of this poem attempts to convey this message through its use of personification for death. She personifies death as a kind and polite gentlemen, one who "kindly stopped for [her]" and took her on a journey in his carriage. Death is an imminent event in life, one that humans cannot avoid because death will come seek them out. Another figure present at the time of death's arrival is immortality.

Immortality most likely personifies the afterlife, which give hope and further demeans the prospect of death by declaring life goes on, even after death.

The speaker of the poem is without a doubt Emily Dickinson. It was probably written on a personal level because there is a crucial shift in tone from the third stanza to the fourth stanza. As the carriage passes through the various settings, the subjects were referred to in third person. In the next stanza, the speaker changes her position, as if she were the child looking out at death and the carriage; death suddenly became "he" and the children became "us". Overall, Dickinson writes this poem in an accepting tone, almost indifferent, which is quite odd considering the subject at hand is death, not exactly a pleasant event by any means. It is also rather ironic because it mocks...