Analyze "Because I could not stop for Death."  Include paraphrases, connotations, attitude, shifts, and themes.

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enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emily Dickinson's poem is structured with 6 stanzas of 4 lines each, mostly with an a-b-c-b rhyme.  Stanza 1 suggests the author living life, until death kindly stops his carriage to pick her up--the connotation being that carriage is a hearse, containing the author, death, and immortality.   Stanza 2 suggests a shift in the slow journey from living to dying by driving towards the graveyard (..put away my labor and my leisure..) and an exchange from living company to the dead (..for his (meaning death's) civility.)  Stanza 3 suggests a movement beyond life experiences (children at school, farming) as the journey moves into twilight (setting sun.)  A big shift occurs in the 4th stanza, where death overtakes these living experiences ( he passed us, presumably the author and immortality ) as night descends, with dew forming and cooling, as it would upon a field at sunset.  Another connotation is the dew, or condensation that forms occasionally on the dying as they cool right before the moment of death--this is further implied by the author's description of the garments she wears, gossamer and tulle being something that would not keep a body warm.  The garments also suggest burial attire for a corpse. Stanza 5 brings the journey to an end at a grave, and Stanza 6 concludes with the observation of the timeless state one presumably experiences after death and burial. The horses' heads, pointing downwards towards the grave, lead the author to eternity.

user682036 | Student

Emily Dickinson is an American poetess who has expressed her deeply personal experiences of isolation and hardship through her verse. Her experience of life is very limited, but she has given a great deal of intensity of her mind to her poems. Social and contemporary problems do not figure in her poetry. She generally deals with problems of life, faith and death. In this poem, the poetess talks about briefness of human life, death and eternity. Her deep religious faith in everlasting life after death makes death look like a noble, kind and civil being. Since life is never willing to surrender itself to death, Death approaches every living creature himself. He drives that soul in his carriage slowly towards eternity.

The poem brings us a sense of peace and serenity which is an outcome of deep religious faith of the poetess. We can imagine a state of existence which is not affected by the passage of time and where every thing is changeless. Religious-minded readers will appreciate poetess's view that this physical life is only a preparation for the eternal life in the next world. The language of the poem is simple but figurative. The sustained image of journey in the company of death beautifully explains the spiritual journey of man from this temporary existence to eternal existence in the hereafter. It is also symbolic of the journey of funeral procession from home to grave.

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user682036 | Student

Death is one of the most prominent themes in the world of poetry, yet each poem concerning it is completely different from the next. The poem âBecause I Could Not Stop For Deathâ is perhaps one of the most enigmatic poems regarding the topic of death. In it, Emily Dickinson explores the psychology death through a young woman who has been buried for centuries. The poem is a reflection of the passing of time and oneâs life while living, and although Dickinson portrays death as a lonely thing, it is neither frightening nor painful. 

The first two stanzas is a recollection of when the young lady was first taken away by Death, which has been personified into a gentlemanly figure. In a way, the relationship between Death and the young lady is almost like a courtship. The first two lines of the poem - âBecause I could not stop for death he kindly stopped for meâ - implying that young lady was not yet ready for Death, but nevertheless âbetrothedâ to him, like a young woman who is too polite to refuse her courteous suitor.

Emily Dickinson thoroughly explores every aspect of death in her poetry. She considers the physical, the psychological and the emotional aspects of this unknowable experience. She looks at death from the perspective of both the living and the dying, even imagining her own death. In 'I felt a Funeral, in my Brain' it is as though she is observing her death, and in 'I heard a Fly buzz - when I died -' she captures the very moment of death and reflects upon what it may be like in a very calming manner. Death is the one completely unknowable experience, which many people spend their life pondering about until the day they reach it, and Dickinson devotes much of her poetry to imagining its many faces.

In 'Because I could not stop for Death', Dickinson enacts the journey of death. Death is personified, and the words used to describe him are 'kindly' and 'For his Civility' therefore presenting him as a polite and courteous gentleman who stops to take her for a ride in his carriage.

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