What does the portrayal of death in the poem say about the speaker's attitude toward the subject?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker's portrayal of death is one of calm waiting, secure in the understanding that there is little escape from its clutches. Dickinson does not portray death in a traditionalist manner where gloom and doom accompany.  Nor does she present a demonic conception of this force.  Rather, there is a quiet sense of calm present in this vision.  In the opening lines, the depiction is actually one of generosity, as death "kindly" stopped for the speaker.  Throughout the poem, death is personified as a force that seeks to illuminate meaning and purpose.  As death accompanies the speaker, it is almost a leisurely pace ("We slowly drove/ He knew no haste") and it renders a vision of beauty and loveliness within the world (Note the descriptions of sun, children playing and open fields in the third stanza).  The speaker's perception towards death is a sense of acceptance and understanding, directly fed through its depiction.  The closing stanza indicates that while the speaker has accepted the presence and force of death many years ago, it does not feel as if so much time has elapsed.  This creates an almost soothing, certainly feeling of acceptance regarding death.

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