What are the school and fields a reminder of in the poem "Because I Could Not Stop for Death?"  

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this haunting poem by Emily Dickinson, the speaker is a woman who takes a carriage ride with Death and Immortality to her eternal home, the grave. After the woman gets picked up, the carriage ride proceeds slowly. Stanza three details some of the sights the woman sees on the way to the graveyard: a schoolyard, grain fields, and the setting sun. The first two of these stand for the woman's life, the school yard representing her childhood and the fields of grain representing her adulthood. In stanza two, she states she had put away "my labor and my leisure too." At the school, children are at recess, so that represents leisure. The fields represent labor, because they are not natural pastureland, but they had to be planted and harvested. Interestingly, the woman notes that the "Children strove / At Recess - in the Ring." To strive means to exert much effort to achieve something. This shows that life, even in childhood, is filled with opportunities to exert and succeed, as Dickinson strove and achieved. That achievement, too, is behind her now. The construction "Fields of Gazing Grain" is also unusual. One is tempted to misread it as "grazing grain" because those two words go together more frequently than "gazing grain." What is the grain gazing at? Possibly it represents gazing into the future for hope of prosperity. As the field ripens, so do one's hopes of selling the grain for profit and being able to better one's state in life. Again, these hopes for the future are all behind the woman now. So the school and the fields are reminders to the woman of her childhood and adulthood, of her leisure and labor, and of her successful exertions and the dreams of this life, which has now ended for her.

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