1. Who is speaking?
2. What kind of person is he or she? In what mood? Thinking what thoughts? Feeling what emotions?
3. Of whom or what is he or she speaking?
4. How is this person or object being described?
5. What attitudes are being projected?
6. Are we led to share the attitudes and emotions in sympathy, or to rebel against them with feelings of anger or irony?
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The full text of the poem is available for reference in the links below.
1. The speaker is not identified, but given the context of the poem, with Death personified as a "he", and a mention of the speaker wearing a gown, we might presume that the speaker is a woman. The poem is frequently interpreted with Death as a "gentleman caller" and the speaker as a woman, but it should be clear that the speaker's identity and Death's identity are not made quite so clear in the text itself.
2. The speaker appears calm, contemplative and perhaps in a sense of wonder at her experience; she does not appear to resist Death, and speaks in terms of imagery that depicts a sort of stillness and natural beauty - the "gossamer gown" and so forth.
3. The most common interpretation is that the speaker is talking about her own death and burial (the "house in the ground"), the mannerisms of "Death" as a personification, and the things that she sees and experiences from the moment of her death to her burial.
4. Death, as a personification, is depicted as considerate, and in a certain sense, irresistable; the speaker puts aside her labor and leisure, i.e. all of her concerns, out of respect for "his civility". Death is not described in physical terms or in details, but in the experiences that the speaker has in relationship to Death's arrival.
5. The most prominent attitude being projected is that death is not terrible or painful - rather it is a calm, almost pleasant experience, and that Eternity, far from being an endless stretch of time, hardly feels like any time at all. This seems intended to persuade the reader that death is not to be feared.
6. It seems that we are "led" to feel sympathy and to share in the speaker's feelings - however this is no guarantee that we will, or should, feel this way. The reader is of course free to interpret this as they see fit, and it is entirely possible to interpret Death as a seductive and hypnotizing force rather than a respectful friend or lover. The lack of any apparent resistance on the part of the speaker is the most key feature in this interpretation; because the speaker shows no regrets, second thoughts, or discomforts with her new circumstances, we cannot help but believe that the speaker's position is not a bad one, and to therefore sympathize with her.
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