Analyze the poem "Because I could not stop for death." Can you find a few paradoxes in this poem? Can you find an oxymoron as well?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are a number of paradoxes in this poem by Emily Dickinson but no true oxymoron. In the first stanza, the idea that death "kindly" stops for the narrator when she could not stop for it is paradoxical, because if she couldn't stop, that implies she didn't want to, yet she finds kindness in Death's unwanted overture. The idea that Immortality, an abstract and overwhelming concept, could be a passenger in a carriage is also a paradox. It may seem paradoxical to say that children "strove" at recess "in the Ring" because it sounds as if they are fighting, not playing, which is the purpose of recess. A house cannot logically be a mere swelling of the ground, and a "Cornice," part of a roof, cannot be "in the ground" under normal circumstances, so these images seem paradoxical. Finally, in the last line it is a paradox to equate "Centuries" of time with a "Day." 

Although many paradoxes exist in the poem, none of them is an oxymoron. An oxymoron must be two adjacent words that are contradictory. For example, if the poem had used the term "underground roof," that could be an oxymoron, but since the words "Cornice - in the Ground" are not two adjacent words, they are not an oxymoron; they are simply a paradox. 

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first stanza contains a paradox:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

Death is in the carriage with the speaker, but so is "immortality," which is usually considered to be the opposite of death. How can you  have both "death" and "immortality"?

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The part about the speaker not stopping for death, so death kindly stopped for the speaker, is a paradox. First off, death is not usually described as kind. Also, it defies logic that the speaker would stop for death, or be pleased that death stopped for the speaker. I have always found that this poem creeps me out though.

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