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Could anyone please summarise the poem, "Because I could not stop for death" by Emily...

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jannats-singh | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted February 23, 2010 at 6:47 PM via web

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Could anyone please summarise the poem, "Because I could not stop for death" by Emily Dickenson?

confusing!???!

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coachingcorner | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:50 AM (Answer #1)

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In the poem 'Because I Could Not Stop For Death' by Emily Dickinson, there is a line'he kindly stopped for me.' The word 'kindly' is tongue-in-cheek here, for most of us do not view death as being very benificent. The word 'kindly' could not be correct anyway - as the poem very neatly puts the point - in that we have no choice about whether to die or not. Every living thing dies at some point, it is the one thing we can still do nothing about despite our super-modern technology. Rather, the word 'kindly' has a role in illustrating for us how Emily Dickinson is viewing him in this particular poem - as a courteous escort who has come to accompany her somewhere (afterlife) and politely presses home his nonetheless unpleasant point by actually coming after her. His point is that it is not possible to be too busy or too important for him and his errand!

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted February 23, 2010 at 7:09 PM (Answer #2)

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In Emily Dickinson's poem, "Because I Could not Stop for Death", the speaker tells us that she has been preoccupied with her day-today activities. She was therefore too busy to stop for anything, as though the hustle and bustle of life ruled out anything new or different. There is a note of self-directed irony or mockery here. In the last stanza, we discover that the speaker is long dead, and that she is speaking from a perspective that has stretched out over a long period of time. She also has given up her commitment to being busy, for she asserts (line 22) that her life in eternity has seemed very short.  

Death is characterized as gracious, polite, and gentlemanly; the key words in this portrait are "kindly" (line 12 and 13 together indicate movement away from earthly perspective to a more heavenly one. This view is unconventional, for Death in this poem is not accompanied by pain, war, and sickness—Death is not the "grim reaper"—but rather is seen as a quiet, pleasant, and normal force that extends life into another dimension.

The carriage might be considered a hearse, the house a grave or vault. More abstractly, the carriage and the house suggest a movement from earth to heaven, in whatever conveyances take people there. On its journey to the grave, the carriage passes a school, children playing at recess, elds of grain, and the setting sun. That the sun passes Death and the speaker as they are riding in the carriage suggests the ending of the speaker’s time on earth, Lines 2 and "civility" (line 8). This view is unconventional, for Death in this poem is not accompanied by pain, war, and sickness—Death is not the "grim reaper"—but rather is seen as a quiet, pleasant, and normal force that extends life into another dimension.

The carriage might be considered a hearse, the house a grave or vault. More abstractly, the carriage and the house suggest a movement from earth to heaven, in whatever conveyances take people there. On its journey to the grave, the carriage passes a school, children playing at recess, elds of grain, and the setting sun. That the sun passes Death and the speaker as they are riding in the carriage suggests the ending of the speaker’s time on earth. Lines 12 and 13 together indicate movement away from earthly perspective to a more heavenly one.

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