The motif of death in Emily Dickinson's poetry?the most important parts where death has been described

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The motif or theme of death was evident in much of Emily Dickinson's poetry. "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" is one of Emily's poems which explains why she wrote about death so often. In this poem, the narrator or speaker of the poem states that death is kind in that death kindly stopped for her:

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;

Emily writes about death as if he were her friend. The carriage drove slowly, just the two of them. She seemed to have no fear of death. This is one reason she could write about it so comfortably.

Emily wrote about death often. She did not seem to fear death. She visualized death. She heard a fly buzz when she died. In this poem, "I Heard a Fly Buzz--When I Died," Emily had to have taken time to imagine what it would be like to be dead. In this poem, she describes with detail what she had witnessed so often--death. To hear a fly buzz during death would mean the room was so quiet. That is exactly how Emily described death with extreme detail:

I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –The Stillness in the Room Was like the Stillness in the Air –Between the Heaves of Storm –

Clearly, the speaker is not in any kind of anguish. In fact, the tone is matter-of-fact like. Death is ordinary:

The speaker's tone is calm, even flat; her narrative is concise and factual.
No doubt, Emily has a comfortableness with death in that she has written about it as an everyday event. There is no doom and gloom in her poetry about death. Death is a welcomed relief for some. Perhaps, Emily too secretly desired to die and let the world pass her by as it does when she is in the carriage in "Because I Could Not Stop for Death."

The slower pace of death could be a welcomed sight for those who have labored continuously.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labour, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

Here, death is civil. There is no gruesomeness in death. Death is as a kindly neighbor who just so happened to pass by. Perhaps, Emily is preparing herself for death. Perhaps, she is is writing about death to rid herself of any fears. Either way, Emily is not in pain at the thought of death.

Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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