How is death personified in "Because I could not stop for Death"?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, Death is personified in such a way that he seems like a suitor, someone who is attempting to woo, or to court, the speaker. He arrives in his carriage to pick her up at her house. Further, his manner is "kindly" while they drive off, alone, together. Death, the suitor, drives the carriage slowly, not wanting to rush or to go too fast for the speaker's comfort; his care seems to imply that he feels some concern for her feelings. The speaker claims that she has laid everything aside in order to prepare for "His Civility": it is almost like they are on a date.

During their carriage ride together, they pass children playing, pretty views of nature, and the sunset. Nighttime falls, and the narrator grows cold, and so Death takes her to a "House" where she can feel comfortable again. Instead of being scary or strange, Death, in this poem, acts more like a suitor than anything else.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Death is personified as a traveling companion in Emily Dickinson's poem "Because I could not stop for Death."

The controlling and extended metaphor of this poem is the comparison of dying to a carriage ride. The speaker travels with Death and Immortality "past the School, where Children strove / At Recess..." (this represents childhood). The group then rides past "Fields of Gazing Grain" (symbols of maturity) and "the Setting Sun" (which symbolizes aging); then the night is seen as the "Dews drew quivering and chill." Finally, the speaker, who feels a chill, arrives at "a House / that seemed a swelling of the Ground."

Dickinson personifies death as a polite companion throughout all life's different cycles.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, death is not personified as something scary like the usual "grim reaper" view of death.  Instead, death is shown as a very nice companion -- maybe even a suitor of the woman who is speaking.

Death takes the speaker for a nice carriage ride.  He even brings along a chaperone (Immortality).  They do not go to anywhere horrible or scary or supernatural.  Instead, they just pass by regular sights like a schoolyard.  The only thing that is the least bit chilling is that they end up at her new home (it's a grave, but it's not really shown that way).

So Death is personified in a pretty benign way in this poem.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The vision of death offered in Dickinson's poem is more of a companion than anything else.  It is seen as a force of comfort, of reverie, and of careful companionship.  The construction of death is one where the speaker is able to see examples of life through the company of death.  This is not a menacing force that causes pain and separation.  Rather, it is one where through company, one is able to view life and view the transitory nature of consciousness.  This personification is vastly different than traditional Western visions of death for there is little to either prevent embracing it or to prevent its presence.

mkcapen1 | Student

The first example of personification within the poem is that death stops for the narrator.  This indicates that death has the ability to stop and go and get the person.  Death is kindly, a quality associated with a person.  Death knows no haste, ability to hurry, but death could only know something if he has a brain and can be cognitive of something.  Death and the setting sun are presented as "he" and have the ability to pass by one another. 

Emily Dickinson's whole poem presents death as a person who has come to get the narrator who is too busy getting on with her life to stop living.  Death arrives on its own and picks her up in a carriage but takes he time to take her past things that she enjoys as he takes her to his place.

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