woman in repose floating through the air surrounded by ghosts

Because I could not stop for Death—

by Emily Dickinson
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In the first two lines of "Because I could not stop for Death—" what adverb defines Death's actions?

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Death's actions, in this poem by Emily Dickinson , are defined by the adverb "kindly." Death, as personified in this poem, is not an aggressive or vindictive character—on the contrary, his behavior is genteel. Like a gentleman, he arrives in a carriage, pausing to welcome the speaker aboard. Far from...

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Death's actions, in this poem by Emily Dickinson, are defined by the adverb "kindly." Death, as personified in this poem, is not an aggressive or vindictive character—on the contrary, his behavior is genteel. Like a gentleman, he arrives in a carriage, pausing to welcome the speaker aboard. Far from grasping the speaker and whisking her vigorously or roughly away, Death does not move with "haste" but instead drives his charge quietly and carefully toward "immortality."

Death, in his carriage, conducts the speaker in a leisurely fashion past all the various vistas of their town, including the school where children were playing, and the grain fields in which crops were growing. Always the gentleman, Death does nothing to alarm or upset his companion in the carriage—his kindly nature seems always to prevent her from recoiling from his presence. She is happy to occupy the same vehicle as him.

Only at the last moment, indeed, does the speaker seem to surmise the true destination of the carriage, because Death's aspect has put her so much at ease.

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"Kindly"

Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for Death," composed around 1863, envisions one's death as a carriage ride to immortality. Death collects the poem's persona, or speaker, and they pass by a school and field before arriving at their destination: the persona's grave. 

The poem's title and first two lines personify death as a gentleman caller: "Because I could not stop for Death - / He kindly stopped for me" (1,2). Typically, titles of poems follow strict rules of capitalization; yet here, Dickinson only capitalizes the first word and "Death." Since "Death" is capitalized, and the poem refers to death with the subject pronoun "he," the concept of death becomes personified. The poem describes Death as "kindly," and as possessing "civility" (2,8). Death is not imagined as the grim, scythe-wielding villain most regard it to be, but instead as a gentle, well-mannered carriage driver. For Dickinson, then, death itself is not a somber event, but a benign force that gently conveys us to the afterlife.

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