How can I write an essay about the connections between these 4 readings: Emily Dickinson ("Because I couldn't stop for death"); Edgar Allan Poe ("The Raven"); W.H. Auden ("Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone"); and Emily Dickinson ("After great pain, a formal feeling comes")?

Expert Answers

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One good way to approach the assignment is as a compare and contrast essay. What all the four poems have in common is that they contain treatments of death, but they address the topic quite differently. In this type of essay, rather than summarizing all four works in order, you should organize your essay thematically. One possible way to organize it would be to address the following thematic issues:

  • Positive vs. negative: "Because I could not stop for Death" displays a generally positive attitude towards death, viewing it as the beginning of immortality, but the other works see death negatively, as an ending or a cause for mourning.
  • Dramatis Personae: "Because I could not stop for Death" is about the narrator's own death. Auden's poem is about the death of a celebrity and the other two poems are about the death of a person the narrator cares for deeply.
  • Emotional tone: "Because I could not stop for Death" is calm and positive in tone, Auden's poem satirical, and the other two melancholy.

In your introduction and conclusion, draw general conclusions about cultural attitudes towards death and how these poems express a wide spectrum of responses to a universal experience

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