Most people understandably don't think about death all that much. Frankly, it's all rather depressing. Even when we do think of death, we regard it with a profound sense of dread and foreboding. This attitude towards the inevitable is reflected in the traditional personification of death as depicted in countless novels, poems, and paintings. In such works, death is personified as an evil character, someone we'd be more than happy to avoid.
As in many things, Emily Dickinson departs from the norm. In her poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” she personifies death as a kindly gentleman who graciously condescends to give the speaker a ride in his carriage.
Far from being a scary figure, Death as presented here as a nice guy, someone who shows kindness and solicitude. Death may be taking the speaker past scenes of her life on the road to her demise, but he's doing so in such a way as to make her last moments on earth a source of calm rather than of horror.
In personifying death in his way, Dickinson is attempting to demystify it and to make it less scary. As she presents it here, death really isn't something to be afraid of.
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 allows for a peaceful transition from life to death. Instead of being an entity to be feared, Death is simply presented as an inevitable eventual companion. This personification is significant in developing the theme of the inevitability and acceptance of the end of life.
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.
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.
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.
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.