What sort of diction does Emily Dickinson use in the the poem "Because I could not stop for Death--"?

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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...

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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 The speaker is no longer active but becomes passive.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.

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In "Because I could not stop for Death," Emily Dickinson employs colloquial diction (meaning the tone is informal and conversational). Nothing about the language in the poem is particularly formal, and she generally uses well-known words and concepts that are, more or less, easy to understand. This is an interesting choice, considering the gravity of her subject matter. The relaxed diction contributes to the poem's central theme: an acceptance of death.

The diction of the poem utilizes both abstract and concrete language. For example, the act of getting into the carriage--and watching scenes unfold while riding--is very concrete in terms of action. However, the abstract language in the poem does outweigh the concrete, as Dickinson deals with concepts such as death and eternity throughout; she alternates between abstract and concrete language to illustrate this scene of death.

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Diction specifically refers to a writer's word choices, and diction is used to develop the writer's themes, tone, mood, and overall style. Within the English language, many word choices exist to describe the same object or paint the same picture, but one word choice over another creates a specific and desired effect and represents an author's diction (Dr. Wheeler, Literary Terms and Definitions: D, "Diction"). Her diction is formal, strongly poetic, yet conversational.

In her poem titled "Because I could not stop for Death--," Emily Dickinson strives to describe death as inescapable and to paint the tone of passive acceptance while maintaining a contrast between life and death that could be depressing but is not due simply to Dickinson's word choices, her diction. Her use of diction serves to accomplish all these things.

One example of very noticeable diction concerns the use of the very simple yet powerful verb "stop." In the very first stanza, she captures death as a stopping, as a cessation of all things by using the verb "stop." She also paints the contrast between life and death by stating, "Because I could not stop for Death-- / He kindly stopped for me--" In other words, the speaker's life was so busy that she had not time to think of death, which shows a contrast between living life and inevitable death. In addition, her statement that Death stopped for her helps portray death as inescapable.

In the third and fourth stanzas, her choice to use the verb "passed" helps paint life as something that inevitably passes us by due to death being inescapable, which helps establish the theme of death being inescapable. In addition, as the speaker describes passing a school where children play, passing grain fields, and passing the setting sun, the reader is drawn to the images of life, which helps the reader see the contrast Dickinson is creating between death and life. However, despite the contrast she constructs between life and death, she maintains an accepting tone throughout, which is created by intentionally refraining from using diction that will capture feelings of sorrow or lamentation.

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