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February 5, 2013

Emily Dickinson “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”

Emily Dickinson is one of those writers who were not successful while live, but she was renowned after her death. Her poems are still popular and arise the warmest feelings of people’s heart and soul. Her poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” though written about death, permeated with a positive attitude to it as the way to the internal life.

From the very first line, Dickinson let us know that the poem is going to be about death. The poetess used personification. She creates an image of Death as a nonviolent and kind being. Death in this case is a man who drives her carriage as if an old friend of hers whom she was waiting. And in the second line the fact that Death is a man was confirmed. Also, this line gives the tone to the whole poem. The word “kindly” is used to characterize Death. He makes his job not because he must but because he likes it. The tone is calm and kind as if her life only begins. The capitalization in the last two lines means that Dickinson wants to highlight these words. Carriage means the chariot that will drive her to her new home, her grave. “Ourselves” means that in carriage were only she and Death. And Immortality is those that will be after death the new life.In the second stanza, the fifth line there is a shift from the pronoun “we” to the pronoun “he”. Dickinson shows that the person has no power over the one who drives the carriage and everything depends on him. The lines six, seven and eight represent the metaphor. It means that her life has come to an end. Lines where she mentions about the children playing in the school yard, fields and sun are the allusions that represent an ordinary, everyday life. Also, these lines may be interpreted as the heroines’ traveling from her childhood, adult life and to her death. It is possible to state that the metaphor of sun represents the image of the whole life of a man. In the 11th and 12th lines the poetess uses anaphora. The continuous repetition of the pronoun “we” may be understood as an endlessness of life.

In the beginning of the 4th stanza, the sun is an allegory of the living world, the world which poetess leaves sitting in this chariot. Punctuation marks in the line means the shift from the world of life to the world of death. The pauses that are made also give the effect of the shift. Here, we can also notice such rhetorical device as a pun. The 15th and 16th lines contain the metaphor. Emily Dickinson shows that the lyrical heroine was unprepared for the journey and was wearing light clothes. Here, the poetess shows a contrast between the world that she leaves and the world that waits for her head. It is cold and lonely.

In the 5th stanza, there are both epithet and metaphor. “House” is the metaphor of the grave, the last place of resting of each human. Dickinson also compares the house with “swelling of the ground”. In the next lines, Dickinson describes this house, but it turns out that it is quite strange. The cornice the highest point of the house was in the ground. It confirms us that the house is really a grave. This will be her new home, the last refuge of her soul.

In the beginning of the 6th stanza in the 1st and 2nd lines, the poetess uses a pun. It turns out this happened century ago, and the heroine was already dead. These lives can also be interpreted as a metaphor because they reveal the meaning that the heroine is alive. She revived in the internal life. Heads of the horses leading towards internal life are the metaphor of the shift to another word. Or it also may be understood as the immortality of the human soul. Also, the poetess tried to show that for the death time means nothing. It is very easily to remember one particular moment from life then time spending in lifelessness. The world where the heroine now is full of boredom and emptiness. Years that she spent in the grave have gone as a moment. Dickinson states that in the world of death one has a feeling of unfortunate existence.

The peculiarity of this poem is that there are no punctuations marks apart from the dashes. Such punctuation mark also gives the rhythm to the poem and special atmosphere that creates mystical aura. The most used tropes and figures of speech in the poem are metaphor and personification. With the help of metaphor and personification, Emily Dickinson creates not a traditional view on the issue of the death. The poetess managed to show the Christian concept of death. In the poem, Emily Dickinson showed serious thought in a quite sensible, calm and if I may say so romantic way.

The main themes of this poem are the themes of mortality and immortality, life and death. Emily Dickinson shows in this poem how it is possible to see the connection between them and if it is possible to consider death as a continuation of life.

The attitude of the main heroine to death is very calm. She describes death as the one whom she knows as if it is her friend whom she was waiting for quite a long time. It is as if she describes the actual life as she has already lived through it. She shows us the death that is not alike to our traditional image of it. The whole picture of the day is not too far from the ordinary day in every person’s life. She is not scared of it.

Emily Dickinson creates the image of death as the continuation of life. But the world where everyone goes after death is not the same as the world of the living. It is empty and cold. In contrast to the Christian tradition, according to which people after the death go to Heaven or Hell, the world of death created by Emily Dickinson reminds the Purgatory, the world that situates between the Heaven and the Hell. As for me, while reading this abstract, I remembered the beginning of Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. The main hero of Dante’s work after the death found himself in the dark forest. The images created by Dante and Emily Dickinson are connected. In her poem, Dickinson states that death is not the end. It is the continuation.

The theme of death and mortality is closely connected with the theme life. These two themes go hand in hand through the whole poem. When the main heroine sits in the carriage, she said that there were the two in the carriage – the main heroine and Death. And then she added that there was one more person in the carriage – Immortality. By these words Emily Dickinson once more stated that the death was not the end of everything. There is a hidden sense in her words.
The images of children playing in the yard, fields and the setting sun show the life in our world which leaves the main heroine forever. Also, these three words symbolize three stages of the human life – childhood, adolescence and old age. These three images can also be interpreted as the stages of Emily Dickinson’s life. Before death, every person remembers everything that has happened with him during the life.

Dickinson describes the other world as a cold and lonely place. There is a new house for her, her place of rest, the new place of living. There she would live till the end of the world.
The carriage in this poem symbolizes the human’s final way. It reminds about Inferno of Dante where all souls are transported by boat to the other side of the hell. The carriage is the symbol of our way to the afterlife. Sunset in the poem is the prediction of the death. Also, the symbol of carriage creates a feeling that death is always near, it presents in the life of every human. It can come unexpectedly to everyone without a warning. Her last way is described as not a mournful procession, but quite a pleasant traveling.

It is not a secret that Emily Dickinson has written lots of poems about death. She was afraid of death from her childhood. She suffered very much when one of her relatives and friends died. She was traumatized when in 1844, her cousin and close friend Sophia Holland died because of the typhus. Sometime later, she was hurt by another death. The principal of the Amherst Academy Leonard Humphrey died because of the brain congestion when he was only 25 years old. In the letter to her friend Abiah Root, Emily Dickinson wrote that all her friends slept the “churchyard sleep”. The school without the principle became cold and empty. She could not brush her tears away. Every one whom Emily Dickinson met in her life left her. They left the feeling of emptiness in her soul.

Another poem that can be viewed in the poem, but it is not so precisely worked out as the foe example the themes of death or mortality. It is the theme of love. Emily Dickinson was never married. She was supposed to be in love with Otis Phillips Lord. Unfortunately, they did not marry. Lord died two years earlier in 1884. Maybe that man in a carriage who drives the heroine of the poem to immortality is Lord. They were not together in life, they be after the death.
Emily Dickinson was fantastically talented poet. Unfortunately, her life was not as fantastic as her poems, but her strength, her inner power will live in the verses forever.

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