How is Death portrayed in "Because I could not stop for Death—" and "Our Casuarina Tree"?

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okburns eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” the author meets Death personified in the form of a gentleman. He arrives in a carriage with Immortality to take the author to her grave. Like any gentleman caller of the time, Death is formal and polite, with the author noting “his civility.” The calm lyricism of the poem and the personification of Death alludes to Dickinson’s comfort with the subject; she seems to regard death as a shift in perspective, rather than a total departure. Indeed, the very last stanza demonstrates that Dickinson regards death as eternity, rather than a final end. Overall, Death in this poem is not something to be feared, but should be greeted like a familiar face.

"Our Casuarina Tree" by Toru Dutt describes an imposing tree with a creeper vine encircling it; the tree stands strong and tall despite the python-like grip of the creeper. The poet reflects on the happy memories shared under the tree with “sweet companions” that are no longer with her. The “dirge-like murmur” of the tree that she describes can be likened to her own inner conflict regarding the tree; she happily reflects on the joy it brought her, but it also reminds her of the pain of losing her siblings. Both the tree and the creeper are an allegory for life and death. The strong, magnificent tree has continued to grow and live despite the creeper’s grip, but eventually it will succumb, just as humans do, to an inevitable death. In the end, however, Dutt treats death, both her own and the tree’s, similarly to Dickinson, as something to be accepted and go gently into, rather than fear.

schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" the poet has died.  Death is personified as a gentleman who picks her up in a carraige and carries her to her grave.  All of her work and play have been put aside to attend to him. They pass by children and grain, still very much a part of life and arrive at a "house", or her grave, "the cornice but a mound"

In "Our Casuarina Tree', the poet is still very much alive.  Her siblings have died.  The tree brings back memories of wonderful times she has had with her siblings who she "loved with love intense".  Death is seen as an intense emotion of sorrow for the loss of another that can be overcome with memories.  She never wants these memories to die, so she wants the tree to continue on into Obliviion.

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