Because I could not stop for Death— Questions and Answers
by Emily Dickinson

Because I could not stop for Death— book cover
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What effect does the speaker's use of personification have on the theme of "Because I could not stop for Death—"? Cite evidence in your answer.

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I would say there are two main themes in this poem. One of them is death itself. The other is the "Immortality" which rides in the carriage alongside the speaker and the personified figure of Death, who has "kindly," like a gentleman, stopped to let her board.

You can see at once how Dickinson's use of personification has affected the poem's theme. By imagining Death as a kindly gentleman, who travels always in a carriage with the personification of immortality, Dickinson indicates, in clear and visual terms, the fact that these two concepts are always twinned. Death cannot exist without immortality: while we may be led away from this world, there is a slowness to it, a "civility" which reflects the fact that death is not the end of us. On the contrary, as Death takes us away, he is accompanied by the immortality which we will take on after leaving this world.

Through personification, then, Dickinson is able to soften the idea of death, which can seem very frightening. By picturing Death as a friendly older man—one who, moreover, does not travel alone or have bad intentions—Dickinson helps us to view the shift from this world to the next in a different way.

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