Hartwell Gex
Mr. Randolph Thomas
English 2027
March 2, 2004
Essay #1 Thoughts On Emily Dickinson's
Because I Could Not Stop for Death
Most readers may assume that Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I Could
Not Stop for Death" would be dark and depressive, much like many poems
based on or concerning with death. The reader, if intrigued to read the
poem and not only the title, will be sure to find a pleasant surprise
contained in Dickinson's writing as she gives a short and interesting
narrative of life after death.
The calm and relaxed tone along with the slightly upbeat rhythm of
the poem portrays to the reader the high level of comfort and accepting
attitude the deceased storyteller contains while riding with Death and
there after. Dickinson creates that same feeling of comfort the
storyteller has in the reader as well by introducing Death's actions with
an amiable description of "kindly" (2), and later on referring to his
"Civility" (8). The narrator also decides to "put away / My labor and my
leisure too" (6-7) in repayment of his modesty. Death has come to this
women's doorstep on this particular day to take her to the after life, yet
she is not at the least bit apprehensive or a little worried about where it
is exactly she is going or what is to come of her. This is because the
narrator is figuratively only giving her labor and leisure to Death in
lines six and seven, but literally giving him her life. Life is nothing
more than choices of labor and leisure. She simply accepts that her time
has come and joins Death on his carriage along with "Immortality" (4). The
statement of immortality on this line also displays that the woman knows of
her everlasting life of this nature and seems to be easily satisfied. The
ease of peacefully forgoing this journey hints that the storyteller may
have been expecting to die soon and had taken mental preparations to help
her accept that her time had come.
As the woman rides with Death to their or rather her destination, in
stanza three she describes details of children at school, a field, and a
setting sun. These thoughts are figuratively of her past life. The
narrator explains literally that she and Death are riding in the carriage
and they "passed the School, where Children strove/ At Recess-in the Ring"
(9-10), "passed the Fields of Gazing Grain" (11), and "passed the Setting
Sun" (12). She is simply drawing reference to and remembering what she
enjoyed at different times and at different stages in her past life. When
she was a young child she enjoyed being around children her age and playing
at recess, specifically in the ring. The "Fields of Gazing Grain" (11)
represents her working life and middle ages as a farmer; which she enjoyed
greatly, which ties into earlier in the poem in lines six and seven, "I had
put away / My labor and my leisure too", because her labor and her leisure
are one in the same, when she sets aside her life for Death, the driver of
the carriage, she actually is giving him her own actual life. As an older
woman later in life on the farm, the daily setting of the sun becomes more
and more important to her because she knows that her time is limited and
the life she loves is setting on the farm just as the sun does every day.
The first line of the forth stanza, "Or rather-He passed Us", further
implies that the images that she was witnessing were indeed her own. With
"He" representing time, Dickinson uses the verb "passed" just as before to
further drive the correlation and relationship with the previous stanza.
The attitude of the main character at this point slightly changes from
overly acceptant of death and the after life to slightly scared and unsure
of her surroundings and what is to come of her. The narrator now realizes
that it was her life that had flashed before her eyes and is reminded that
she is indeed deceased because "The Dews drew quivering and chill-" (14).
The dew has settled on her skin as a result of the coolness of her body.
She disagrees and offers a reason to why the "Dews drew quivering" (14).
She explains that her gown and scarf are only made of very thin material
and because of the use of the word "For" she seems to be passing the blame
onto her clothing as a cause for the dew to