What are similarities and differences in the poems "Death Came to See Me in Hot Pink Pants" by Heather Royes and "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" by Emily Dickinson?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In both the poems "Death Came to See Me in Hot Pink Pants" and "Because I could not stop for Death," the poets Heather Royes and Emily Dickinson respectively each give very different interpretations of the inevitable encounter with death, though both also refer to death in similar ways.

One similarity between the two poems is that both poets choose to speak of the death experience by personifying death; however, both poets also personify death in very different ways. More specifically, Heather Royes chooses to personify death in a completely uncharacteristic way by having him appear dressed in disco fashion with hot-pink pants, a hot-pink waistcoat, and pink sequins on the shoulders of his jacket. Also, uncharacteristically, she chooses to personify death as a "black saga boy." While her exact meaning in the phrase "black saga boy" is a little ambiguous, a saga can refer to a "dramatic history of a group, place, industry, etc." (Random House Dictionary). So, since death is being personified as a "black saga boy," we might assume she means to describe death as a black boy, or boy of African descent, who comes from the long, dramatic, and tragic history characteristic of those of African descent. Hence, unlike most personifications of death, Royes is personifying death as a black boy with a long and tragic history who is also dressed all in disco hot pink.

In contrast, Emily Dickinson gives a much more typical personification of death. She has Death pull up in a carriage and carry her past all the things of the world she once knew, such as school, children, fields of grain, and the setting sun, and take her to a very large house, a house so large that its "[r]oof was scarcely visible." It is here at this house that she passes the rest of eternity. Since death is only personified as one who draws a carriage to pick up the deceased person, we see that Dickinson's personification of death is much more traditional and characteristic than Royes' personification. In fact, in Celtic folklore, death is personified as one who either rides up on horseback or drives a carriage pulled by black horses to the deceased person's home. The person would immediately die as soon as Death called out the person's name. Hence, we see that Dickinson has chosen to use fairly well-known personification from Celtic folklore to personify Death in her poem, while Royes is much more original in her personification.

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