woman in repose floating through the air surrounded by ghosts

Because I could not stop for Death—

by Emily Dickinson
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How is "Because I could not stop for death" one long extended metaphor?

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A metaphor is a comparison that does not use the words like or as.

In "Because I could not stop for death," Dickinson compares death to a ride with a gentleman in a carriage. She extends this comparison across the entire poem, so it becomes an extended metaphor.

Imagery —description...

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A metaphor is a comparison that does not use the words like or as.

In "Because I could not stop for death," Dickinson compares death to a ride with a gentleman in a carriage. She extends this comparison across the entire poem, so it becomes an extended metaphor.

Imagery—description using the five senses of sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell—extends the metaphor. We begin with the image of death, personified as a "kindly" gentleman, stopping his carriage to pick up the speaker. The description continues as the two travel together in the carriage. A sense of motion is created in the slow movement of the carriage. Then, we see scenes from the windows of the carriage: schoolchildren, fields of grain, and a fitting, traditional image of death—a setting sun.

Dickinson also uses images of touch as the speaker, continuing to travel with the gentleman Death, feels the cold chill of eternity. She is not adequately dressed for this experience, wearing only the lightest of materials. Being dressed for a carriage ride in a dress of gossamer, a lightweight material, and wearing a tippet (a long thin scarf or shawl) extends the metaphor of a polite ride with Death and shows how the speaker, like most people, has not adequately anticipated this journey.

Finally, Death and the speaker arrive at a house, as anyone would taking a carriage ride, but this house is underground—the grave.

The genteel, domestic, middle-class depiction of death as a carriage journey from house to house is startling and unsettling. The extended metaphor Dickinson uses holds together all the imagery but offers us none of the sentimental comfort of a trip to heaven and the afterlife, only the unpleasant prospect of exchanging one's current home for another one that is chilly and underground.

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