In the opening stanza of "Because I could not stop for Death," the most important word is arguably "Death." Throughout the poem, death is personified as a gentlemanly caller who takes a ride in a carriage with the speaker, toward her own death. The fact that death is personified in...
In the opening stanza of "Because I could not stop for Death," the most important word is arguably "Death." Throughout the poem, death is personified as a gentlemanly caller who takes a ride in a carriage with the speaker, toward her own death. The fact that death is personified in this poem perhaps makes it less mysterious, and more real, than it might otherwise be. This is appropriate because death is, to the speaker, at this time of her life (as she is about to die), a very real presence.
Throughout the poem, Dickinson also uses collective pronouns like "We" and "Us" to indicate how close the speaker is with death. This, in combination with the personification of death, suggests that death has a personal relationship with the speaker and perhaps also renders death less threatening and more normal. One possible meaning of the poem is that death is not something to be feared.
At the end of the second stanza, the word "Civility" is important. The speaker puts away her "labor and (her) leisure" (in other words, her life) and gives into the charm, or civility of "Death." The fact that "Death" has charmed her into giving up her life suggests that perhaps she was ready to do so, and that death maybe isn't as unwelcome a prospect as it might ordinarily be.
In the third stanza, we have a sense that the speaker's life is drawing to a close; this is implied by the "Setting Sun." The setting sun signals the end of a day, darkness replacing the light. Dickinson thus uses the setting sun as a symbol to indicate that the speaker's life is ending, as she journeys, metaphorically, out of the light and into the dark.
At the beginning of the fourth stanza the line "Or rather — He passed us" represents a significant change in the poem. The speaker is no longer active but becomes passive. She is not passing the sun, but it is passing her. This is when the speaker realizes that time has caught up with and overtaken her, and she is no longer in control.
Also in the fourth stanza we have the word "Gossamer," which often connotes a spider's web. And a spider's web often suggests entrapment, because a spider uses its web to trap flies. This would be a fitting allusion at this point in the poem because the speaker feels trapped and, as noted above, no longer in control.
The final word of the poem is "Eternity." It's important that Dickinson ends with this word, because it leaves the poem resonating with a hopefulness. The idea conveyed here is that death is not the end, but simply another beginning, as implied also by the phrase which begins the stanza, "Since then." The speaker looks back on her carriage trip with "Death" from the afterlife, or from "Eternity," but is very much still alive in some sense.