“Because I Could not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

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Because I couldn’t stop for death, by Emily Dickinson, is the longest and most fascinating poem. Before she dies, the character continues to accept death. The poem’s apparent message is that death will come to everyone, whether they are prepared or not. Nonetheless, from the speaker’s point of view, death emerges first as a gentleman, then as a seducer, and eventually as a journey. “Because I couldn’t stop for death” is a poem that can be interpreted as the speaker’s wedding day, beginning with death coming to retrieve her, then going through the phases of life, and then finishing at a woman’s grave. The poem “Because I could not stop for death” is the longest and most interesting poem. The author fails to accept death until she dies. The obvious implication of the poem is that death can come to anyone despite being ready for it or not. Nevertheless, from the perspective of the speaker, death sneaks up on her appearing first as the gentleman, then as a seducer, and ultimately as a journey. “Because I could not stop for death” is a poem that can be viewed as the wedding day of a speaker, starting with death coming to retrieve her, then passing through the life’s stages, and ultimately ending at the grave of a woman.

The poem “Because I could not stop for death” written by Emily Dickson deals with the death. Emily does not take time explaining what the poem is all about. Emily allows the reader to understand from the start what the poem will be about. The heading itself appears active and lively. Starting the poem with “Because” indicates that it provides a precise answer or argument to the query. Additionally, the rest of the title “could not stop for death” allows a reader to understand that we are not the determining factor of mortality (Kennedy 593). Thus, death serves as a dash between the mortal existence of man and his constant desire for immortality.

Emily gives death a human form, which is the common theme of the poem. In this case, death is not described physically, but the reader is allowed to use his/her imagination to create a physical description of mortality. Thus, the author makes death understandable; for example, when she says “Because I could not stop for death,” she allows her readers to ask the reason she could not stop for death. She is accompanied by immortality and death in the carriage that she rides in. Immortality can represent her spirit or soul, and death can describe the nature of self. Emily mentions a house at the end of the poem; the reference can indicate many things. One can understand it as her fear of being forgotten or the tombs built by the Romans along their roads. In the last stanza, she realizes that one cannot escape death; nevertheless, it is forever on a carriage that heads to eternity.

The author makes use of different ways of getting her views and points on death across to her readers. In the poem, she personifies death being a human as she states that “Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me.” Emily makes death appear somewhat serene and relaxing. Moreover, she humanizes the death as a man and her new home being a grave. She represents the death personality and overstates the involvement: death is depicted as a common acquaintance that kindly halts taking her to the grave. “Because I could not stop for Death – ” (line 1), “He kindly stopped for me – ” (line 2), “The carriage held but just us – ” (line 3), “And Immortality” (line 4), “We slowly drove – he knew no haste” (line 5), “And I had put away” (line 6). Thus, by personifying death, Emily Dickinson makes her readers believe that death is understandable.

The author allows death and immortality to accompany her during the sceneries of her life. The second stanza declares a symbolic beginning of travel to the very end. A course to be pursued aimed at the culmination of narrator’s life, verifying it by the following words “We slowly drove – He knew no haste (line 5), And I had put away (line 6), My labor and my leisure too (line 7), for His Civility” (line 8). In so doing, we further grasp author’s reminiscing of old memories and plunge into her astonishing train of thought. Going over the scene, one may acknowledge such binary opposition as death/immortality. Ultimately, they not only harmoniously coexist but also are the logic sequence of an individual’s course of life. However, Emily humbly takes the things for granted and allows them (death and immortality) accompany her during the sceneries of her life.

In this way, it is clear that we may assume that the bottom line of Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for death” is reconciliation with a presumption of death. Thus, the author builds different points of view to depict this “mysterious guest” amply. What is more, death is portrayed as a seducer and immortality as an accomplice to the crime. Between these two alternatives, it leaves the question of what expects us after the invisible line of death whereas it remains open and unresolved. In the long run, the poetess cannot identify their feelings and attitudes to death. To add to it, the narrator recourses to such symbolic markers as the sunset, new home embodied in the grave, chariot along with general mood, which should have helped him to reach an ultimate certainty. At the end of the day, being a two-fold uncertain, the poet, though, remains in our world with a bitter aftertaste bestowed by an imaginary walk with death.


Kennedy, X. J., Gioia, D. (10/2012). The Literature Collection, 1st Edition. [South University]. Retrieved from https://digitalbookshelf.southuniversity.edu/#/books/9781269582674/

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