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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In 'Because I could not stop for Death -', who are the characters?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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The poem has two characters, Death and the narrator.

Death is described as a gentleman riding in a carriage. He is "kindly" because he stops his carriage and let's the narrator in. He is also described as unrushed and as offering "civility."

These are unusual characteristics to attribute to death, which is not often described as kind or civll or as a gentleman. Death is more often seen as cruel, rude, and uncivilized.

The other character is the poem's narrator who rides with Death in his carriage. We know this character is a female because she wears a gown (traditional of women during Dickinson's time period). She seems particularly passive, accepting what comes without a struggle.

As the poem goes on, we come to question the narrator's characterization of Death as kindly. As the sun sets, in other words, as she passes into the realm of death, the narrator...

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