Because I Could Not Stop For Death Theme

What is the theme of "Because I could not stop for Death"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I would argue that the two main themes of this poem are closely related: the nature of death and the fact that all of life is, in a morbid sense, a journey toward death.

With regard to the nature of death, it is important to notice that death is referred...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

I would argue that the two main themes of this poem are closely related: the nature of death and the fact that all of life is, in a morbid sense, a journey toward death.

With regard to the nature of death, it is important to notice that death is referred to as kind. Despite the fact that we cannot stop to die (because we are too busy living), death will stop his carriage when the time is right and escort us aboard. Dickinson never portrays death as violent or sudden—rather, it is always a meandering journey.

The journey toward death is described as lengthy and peaceful, with a variety of landmarks passed along the way—from a school, to a field, to a personified setting sun, to a house.

Perhaps a simpler way to answer your question would be to say that the theme of this fantastic poem is death, portrayed in a peaceful sense as part of life's journey.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

One of the strongest themes to arise out of Dickinson's poem is the embrace of the end force that is inevitably felt by all living creatures.  Dickinson creates a portrait of death which is not fearful or brutal, but rather one of calm comfort that is to visit everyone as their inevitable end is marked.  The opening lines confirm this:  "He kindly stopped for me."  The notion of characterizing death as "kindly" and gracious is a powerful reconceptualization as opposed to the standard gloomy notion.  At the same time, the vision offered through the poem is one of reflection and nostalgia, where death and the speaker visit school yards at recess, open fields, and engage in the process of thoughtful rumination on the nature of existence.  This is a vision of death that is not fearful, but rather receptive to what is awaiting all life.  In the process, a theme that arises is that one should not live their life in fear of death, but rather examine a life where there is some notion of happiness when the inevitability of the carriage "kindly" stops for all of us.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team