ENG 206- C1
The Meaning of Life
Analysis of the poem” Because I Could not Stop for Death” from Emily Dickinson
“Because I Could not Stop for Death” is a poem written by the famous American poet Emily Dickinson in nineteenth century. She was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Because she did not care about being famous or getting benefit from her writing, only 7 of her poems got published out of 1775. In 1886, after she died, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a famous American writer collected her poems and published them in 1890, but most poems got changed. Till 1995, her poem was collected by Tomas Johnson and changed back to what they were. Tomas Wentworth Higginson thought her poem showed her specially understanding of nature and life, she had the deepest, and creative insight. Death, Eternal, and Love are three important theme of Dickinson’s poems. Dickinson was good at observing, and detailed describing. Most of her poems were from her experience and her own feeling, and her poems could give readers a usual and deep feeling. She was one of the greatest and effective female poets in nineteenth century. Her poem “Because I Could not Stop for Death” was famous of the distinctive understanding of Death. Dickinson’s understanding of Death was so distinctive and meanwhile, the poem was full of Philosophy.
The poem “Because I Could not Stop for Death” was short but veiled. The whole poem contained of 24 lines, 6 verses, and 4 verses made 4 lines of the poem. Dickinson combined Death with formal elements to show her understanding of life, growth, death and eternal. Dickinson wrote about her loss in life and death, and the expectation of eternal. The deep meaning of this poem was about the soul; the world is full of misery, life is full of unknown. Only Death is the mediator to eternal, only when you really understanding what death really mean for, then to be eternal.
At the very beginning of the poem, death was personated. “Death” seems has “life”, and has the action of a human being. It is described as “the God of Death” more than just “Death” itself. For example, in the second line “He kindly stopped for me” shows that in this poem, “Death” is the main role and it is personated. “[s]topped for me” is the action of human, and he is kind when he is doing this. “He knew no haste” creates the image of calm. “His Civility” makes “Death” a gentleman. “Death” under Dickinson’s pen is not the way people usually think: cruel and emotionless. “Death” attracts “me” deeply by his special personalities. “I” am so interested “And I had put away/My labor and my leisure too”, to follow the step of “Death” and start a new journey with him. “I” am not sad, and does not even crying when face death, as if all of things in the world make me exhausted. It is glad to put down all “I” have in the world and accept the invitation of Death to be on journey with him. “I” trust in “Death”, not like other people in the world are so scared of him. “I” consider him as one of my friend. In the poem, the writer connects “I” and Death using “Ourselves” and “We”, and even with “Immortality”. The author personates “Immortality” as well. The purpose is to serve as a foil, and set off by contrast that what “I” am looking for is not just “Immortality”. There are totally three “people” on the “carriage”- “I”, “Death” and “Immortality”.
The most symbolic lines of this poem start from “We paused the school, where Children strove”. Like Mary Neff Shaw pointed out: “the school, where Children strove” means the “Childhood” of a human; “the Fields of Gazing Grain” means the process of growth- to be an adult from children, the period is “Maturity”; “the Setting Sun” means when people get old, which is “Old Age”. From “We passed the school, where Children strove/At Recess-in the Ring-” we can see that the scene of children playing at school, singing and laughing reminds “me” of the childhood, it is full of memory and probably it was the most