woman in repose floating through the air surrounded by ghosts

Because I could not stop for Death—

by Emily Dickinson

Start Free Trial

How is death personified in the poem?

Death is personified as a courteous carriage driver.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Personification is when an abstract concept is given an anthropomorphic form. Emily Dickinson's poem personifies death as a kindly carriage driver. This presentation differs sharply from the usual presentation of death as a fearsome figure in a hooded robe and scythe, which tends to make death appear vengeful and menacing. Instead, death becomes a gentlemanlike figure, stopping for the speaker and showing her a series of idyllic images representing the different stages of life (childhood, adulthood, and then the grave) before taking her into eternity itself.

The speaker also stresses the inevitability of meeting death. The opening line stresses that death stopped for her even though she could not stop for death. This relates to how death comes for everyone, whether it is expected or not. Usually, the possibility of death coming at any time is frightening, but for the speaker, it is merely a courteous gesture.

This gentle personification reflects the speaker's attitude towards death. Instead of fearing death, the speaker appears to accept it, allowing her to better appreciate the beauty of the scenes passing her by during the carriage ride. She leaves her life calmly and without regrets. She treats death as a friend rather than an entity to be dreaded.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team