Because I could not stop for Death— Questions and Answers
by Emily Dickinson

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

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Often when death appears in literature, particularly when personified, it is seen as dark, evil, and ominous. In this poem, Dickinson creates quite a different mood surrounding the appearance of Death.

The speaker is living her life, too busy to think about dying, when suddenly her life simply ends. Death shows up. She doesn't convey a sense of fear or trepidation upon gazing at Death; instead Death is described as being "kindly." The speaker had an appointment with Death that she didn't realize, and when he appears to take her on the journey toward eternity, she doesn't protest.

Death isn't in a rush to reach their destination; he drives without haste and allows the speaker one final opportunity to gaze upon the metaphorical totality of her earthly life. They pass by metaphorical images of her childhood, midlife, and her final resting place. The journey seems casual and even warm. After all, Death treats her with great civility, demonstrating courtesy and respect.

This personification

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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.