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Because I could not stop for Death

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Allison Moore

on 14 November 2014

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Transcript of Because I could not stop for Death

Poetry
Born December 10, 1830, Massachusetts- 1886
introvert personality
spent most of her time with her family
father was Edward Dickinson a congressman and politician
her brother Austin was an attorney
her sister Lavinia spent most of her life as well in isolation.
The people she did come in contact with had a huge impact on her poetry
Attended Amherst college and Mt. Holyoak College

Emily Dickinson
Setting
The carriage driven by death
The Passing scenery, children playing, fields
The setting sun (entering death)
The speakers grave
Characters
Because I could not stop for Death
Because I could not stop for Death –
He kindly stopped for me –
The Carriage held but just Ourselves –
And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess – in the Ring –
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –
We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed us –
The Dews drew quivering and chill –
For only Gossamer, my Gown –
My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground –
The Roof was scarcely visible –
The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
Were toward Eternity –
Emily Dickinson
Because I could not stop for Death-(1863)
Speaker
Woman who welcomes death even through he arrives unexpectedly. She quickly attaches to death and forms a bond, somewhat like a plan for marriage which highlights the consoling aspect of death itself. In the last stanza we discover that the narrator is speaking from the grave alluding to the fact that her soul has lived for eternity.
"Since then-'tis centuries-and yet Feels shorter than the day" (Lines 21,22)
Shows that speaker speaks from the grave
Reminisces on her pleasant trip to afterlife

Death
Perceived as a male suitor who escorts the speaker to afterlife. Dickinson uses the character as an extended metaphor to represent actual death. Death resembles a kind, polite, and courteous person who takes the speaker on a leisure and comforting ride. He does not resemble the occasional frightening grim reaper but rather an inviting, approachable, and engaging gentleman.
"Because I could not stop for death-He kindly stopped for me" (lines 1,2)
Showing that the aspect of death should not be feared
"He knew no Haste-" (line 5)
"His Civility-" (line 8)
Immortality
A silent passenger or chaperone in the carriage. The aspect of immortality is similar to Dickinson's approach to death, where the soul does not die but lives for eternity.
"The carriage held but just Ourselves- And Immortality" (Lines 3,4)
"Were toward Eternity-" (line 24)
Children
Dickinson signifies the stages of life throughout the poem. The children are boys and girls playing in a school yard which resembles childhood. In addition to the children, the "gazing grain" and the "setting sun" symbolize adolescence and adulthood. The stages are quickly defined in the poem showing that the stages of life pass before one realizes.
"We passed the School, where Children strove" (line 9)
"We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain- We passed the Setting Sun-" (lines 11,12)
Plot
Analysis
Alliteration
Internal Rhyme
Metaphor
Personification
Dickinson’s use of internal rhyme amplifies the emotions of death throughout the piece. She believes that death is a rather pleasant and gradual process. The use of internal rhyme emphasizes on the speakers journey because it slows the pace of the rhyme while the ensuing lines quicken in movement. The slowness it presents plays into Dickinson’s overall theme of death occurring gradually.
creates a discordant mixture of sounds that overall adds complexity to the theme
emphasizes the personification and imagery presented throughout the poem.
Scattered throughout the poem, helps unify the stanzas
Common Meter/Hymn Measure
Internal Rhyme
An exact rhyme within a line of poetry, whether put in randomly or in some kind of patter.
"The carriage h
el
d but just ours
el
ves" (line 3)
"We sl
ow
ly dr
o
ve, he knew n
o
haste" (line 5)
"We passed the fields of g
a
zing gr
ai
n" (line 11)
"The d
ew
s gr
ew
quivering and chill" (line 14)
Alliteration is the repetition of identical consonant sounds, in close proximity, often at the beginning of words. In “Because I could not stop for Death” Emily Dickinson makes extensive use of alliteration, to great effect. A few examples are “He
kn
ew
n
o haste” (5), “Fields of
G
azing
G
rain” (11), “We passed the
S
etting
S
un” (12), “only
G
ossamer, my
G
own” (15), “My
T
ippet-only
T
ulle” (16). The use of alliteration infuses the poem with a peaceful, almost hypnotic rhythm. It creates a sound effect that is very pleasing and soothing, and seems almost to lull the reader into a sense of calm. Dickinson uses this effect to mirror the central purpose of the poem, which is to assuage the reader’s fears about death.
Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” is written in Common Meter, also called Hymn Measure. This consists of quatrains with alternating lines of iambic tetrameter and iambic trimeter. Iambic meter consists of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. It is the most common meter in the English language. Dickinson’s use of iambic meter gives the poem a very natural, relaxed feel. This mirrors the speaker’s relaxed feelings about her own death. Furthermore, Dickinson’s choice of Common Meter, or Hymn Measure, gives the poem a soothing tone, such as a church hymn would have. “Amazing Grace,” for example, is also written in Common Measure. This poetic format reinforces the purpose of the poem itself: to reassure the reader that death is not to be feared.
Meaning
In “Because I could not stop for Death” Emily Dickinson offers her reflections on one of the greatest mysteries that all human beings, at one time or another, find themselves wondering about: what happens after death? Whereas most people regard death as something terrifying, Dickinson clearly wrote this poem to communicate her opinion that death is nothing to be feared at all. The poem is an expression of the belief that death is only a transition from mortal life to eternal life. Dickinson’s portrayal of Death as a gentleman offering the speaker a ride conveys her idea that Death actually provides a service by transferring one to their immortal afterlife. This idea is reinforced when the speaker flatteringly refers to Death’s “Civility” (8) and his having “kindly stopped” for her (2). By describing the event of death like a carriage ride, Dickinson conveys the idea that death isn’t something horrifying. The poem implies that death isn’t an end, but rather a transition. This idea is firmly established by the fact that Death and the speaker only “passed” (17) her grave, pleasingly described as a house, on their way “toward eternity” (24). The journey didn’t end when they arrived at the grave site, because this is only where the speaker’s body was to reside. The carriage continues on with Death escorting the speaker into the afterlife. “Because I could not stop for Death” is a statement of Dickinson’s belief that mortal life and death are just brief phases of one’s eternal existence. Through the use of metaphor, personification, and numerous other poetic devices, she seeks to create a sense of peace with regard to dying, and reassure the reader that death isn’t the end of one’s existence, because the soul lives on in the afterlife.
Death, in the form of a carriage driver, stops to pick up the speaker. They move along at a leisurely pace. The speaker is clearly at ease.
They pass children playing and fields of grain. Death and the speaker pass by the setting sun, signifying their entry into death. The speaker remarks that she is cold and under dressed symbolizing her impromptu meeting with death. They then stop at a small "house" which is the speakers grave, and we the reader find out that the speaker has died long ago.
Influenced by Metaphysical Poets
universal themes:
wonders of nature
identity of the self
death and immortality
love
Punctuated poems with dashes rather than common punctuation marks
capitalized interior words
very secretive about her poems
She would send them to friends in letters
Was not recognized publicly for her poems during her life time
often wrote in first person but did not always refer to herself
A comparison between two unlike things, this describes one thing as if it were something else without using “like” or “as”.
The poem as a whole is a metaphor. She is slowly taken to her death in a carriage and death is the driver.

• Attributing human characteristics to nonhuman things or abstractions
“Because I could not stop death-” Line 1
“He kindly stopped for me-” Line 2
• Emily Dickinson is giving death human traits. These two lines make you think of a gentleman pulling in a carriage.
• The Whole poem personifies death a person. Death picks the Narrator up and travels with the narrator slowly taking her to his place, taking her through special times in her life.

Allison Moore, Robert Maxwell, Haley Donahue, Jacob Almeida
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