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Please explain the symbolism and figures of speech used in the poem "because i could...

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shwetap | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 13, 2010 at 11:01 PM via web

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Please explain the symbolism and figures of speech used in the poem "because i could not stop for death."

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 14, 2010 at 11:40 PM (Answer #1)

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The most overwhelming example of figurative language is the depiction of death.  As opposed to the traditional conceptions of the grim reaper and a type of foreboding presence that is meant to terrify, Dickinson categorizes death as a traveling companion whose presence is warm and comforting.  It's a unique and distinctive personification, but it is carried throughout the poem.  We can see this in the second line with the idea of "kindly" as referencing death and line 8, noting his "civility."  The imagery presented is the narrative of one's life, and different moments from it such as schoolyards and cemeteries.  The primary descriptive element features a symbolic representation of death as something that takes the speaker, presumably Dickinson, to a natural end, in a progressive type of fashion.  Death is depicted as a part of life, symbolic of the end of all human beings, and not something towards which one can possess overwhelming fear.

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