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Please explain Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I could not stop for Death"In detail please

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gksriharsha | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 15, 2012 at 10:08 PM via web

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Please explain Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I could not stop for Death"

In detail please

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Stephen Holliday | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted January 15, 2012 at 10:58 PM (Answer #1)

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This poem is one of many among her works that deals with death and dying, and this particular is interesting in part because the speaker is obviously dead and is looking back on the experience of dying.  The tone, however, is calm resignation and serene detachment.

In the first four lines, the poet seems to be too busy living, and so Death "kindly stopped for me," and then the poet introduces the metaphor of a journey with "the Carriage held just ourselves. . . ."  The metaphor of death as a journey is quite common, but Dickinson uses it quite freshly as she describes the beginning as "we slowly drove--He knew no haste/and I had put away/My labor and my leisure too. . . ."  In other words, this journey is depicted almost as if two friends are quietly enjoying a carriage ride, but in this case, the destination is the grave.

The third stanza is often considered as representing the three ages of mankind: "where Children strove/At Recess" respresents childhood; "we passed the Fields of Gazing Grain" represents middle age; and "we passed the Setting Sun" represents old age.  In the end, I don't think it matters whether we see this as representing stages of life or just as scenes of living that the poet is leaving behind in her journey.

The poem shifts from revery (gentle remembrance) to a slightly harsher reality in the fourth stanza when the poet remarks that the "Dews grew quivering and chill," which refers to a chill that she feels because she is dressed in the garments of the grave--"My Tippet--only Tulle"--which provide no protection for her.  And this is reminder that she still is capable of feeling something because she is not yet in her grave.

The grave itself, the end of this journey, is described in the fifth stanza as "a House that seemed/A swelling of the Ground," with its roof barely visible above ground.  The burial vault, then, is the speaker's destination, and we understand the finality of this peaceful journey.

The final stanza is effective because we perceive the speaker as still a conscious being, a soul, looking back from centuries after dying and observing that, for the dead, time has no significance.  For the speaker, unlike those who are still living, time is no longer a linear construct but an unending circle.

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crazynitin998 | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted May 6, 2012 at 9:38 AM (Answer #2)

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This poem is one of many among her works that deals with death and dying, and this particular is interesting in part because the speaker is obviously dead and is looking back on the experience of dying.  The tone, however, is calm resignation and serene detachment.

In the first four lines, the poet seems to be too busy living, and so Death "kindly stopped for me," and then the poet introduces the metaphor of a journey with "the Carriage held just ourselves. . . ."  The metaphor of death as a journey is quite common, but Dickinson uses it quite freshly as she describes the beginning as "we slowly drove--He knew no haste/and I had put away/My labor and my leisure too. . . ."  In other words, this journey is depicted almost as if two friends are quietly enjoying a carriage ride, but in this case, the destination is the grave.

The third stanza is often considered as representing the three ages of mankind: "where Children strove/At Recess" respresents childhood; "we passed the Fields of Gazing Grain" represents middle age; and "we passed the Setting Sun" represents old age.  In the end, I don't think it matters whether we see this as representing stages of life or just as scenes of living that the poet is leaving behind in her journey.

The poem shifts from revery (gentle remembrance) to a slightly harsher reality in the fourth stanza when the poet remarks that the "Dews grew quivering and chill," which refers to a chill that she feels because she is dressed in the garments of the grave--"My Tippet--only Tulle"--which provide no protection for her.  And this is reminder that she still is capable of feeling something because she is not yet in her grave.

The grave itself, the end of this journey, is described in the fifth stanza as "a House that seemed/A swelling of the Ground," with its roof barely visible above ground.  The burial vault, then, is the speaker's destination, and we understand the finality of this peaceful journey.

The final stanza is effective because we perceive the speaker as still a conscious being, a soul, looking back from centuries after dying and observing that, for the dead, time has no significance.  For the speaker, unlike those who are still living, time is no longer a linear construct but an unending circle.

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