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Showing posts with label Emily Dickinson Because I could not Stop for Death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emily Dickinson Because I could not Stop for Death. Show all posts

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Poetry Study Aid: Emily Dickinson: Because I Could Not Stop For Death

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet who lived, for the most part, an introverted and solitary life. Dickinson was a productive closed-door poet: most of her poems were published posthumously, and critics now consider Dickinson to be a major American poet. Her poems mainly deal with themes of deathwpid-img_a0507099aa1h and immortality. The poem Because I could not stop for death is typical Emily Dickinson in its presentation of Death. Death is considered as positive, even desirable, feature of life as it brings immortality to the mortals. Contrary to the common perception of death as fearful and terrible, Emily Dickinson depicts death as a lover and a suitor that takes her to the land of eternity- a realm of timelessness- where she experiences ultimate bliss.
The poem Because I could not stop for Death is in the form of a monologue and the speaker, a woman , communes from beyond the grave, from the domain of Eternity.Each stanza of the poem can be considered to represent a particular aspect: the first stanza shows the arrival of Death as a suitor at the woman’s door; the second stanza describes the journey of the two lovers; the woman and Death accompanied by Immortality; the third stanza presents the sights  on their journey; the fourth stanza brings the realisation of death by the woman; in the fifth stanza  the lovers arrive at the house of death; and the sixth stanza is located at Eternity from where the woman speaks of her journey and the attainment of immortality.
The speaker can be presumed to be the poet herself in an imaginary situation.
Stanza I
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

1. Who is the speaker of the poem? Why could the speaker not stop for Death?
The speaker of the poem is a woman, presumably the poet herself in an imaginary situation. The poet could not stop for Death as she was too preoccupied with her worldly affairs.
Emily Dickinson personifies Death here. Personification is a figure of speech in which objects or ideas are endowed with human attributes.
2. What is the significance of the use of the word ‘ kindly’ in the context?
As the poet was immensely engrossed in the fret and fever of her life, she could not find time to stop for anything even for her need for love, or for her lover Death. Then Death, kindly and  caringly comes to her doorstep as a suitor and lover, like  a true gentleman. Death desires to take her for a jaunt in his carriage.
Death is caring and understanding. In spite of the poet’s inability to keep her appointment with Death, he kindly (caringly and with full understanding) arrives at her house to take her for a journey to his house.
Death is kindly in the sense that the journey with Death relieves her from the humdrum of her harsh  busy life.
3. What is the significance of Immortality in the carriage of Death?
While Death and the poet are on their journey, the Carriage carries Immortality also. Immortality is personified as a chaperon (A chaperone is someone who accompanies another person somewhere in order to make sure that they do not come to any harm.)
The presence of Immortality in the carriage of Death accentuates the theme of the poem. Death is always accompanied by Immortality, his constant companion. In a way the poet is suggesting that Immortality follows Death, that is, Death brings immortality to the ordinary mortals: and through immortality men and women master death.
Stanza II
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labour, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

1. Who are the ‘We’ referred to in the extract? Explain: he knew no haste.
The ‘We’ referred to in the extract are the poet and Death, her suitor. They, along with Immortality, are in the carriage of Death on their way to the House of Death.
Death has arrived, like a gentleman lover, at the door step of the poet. The poet was too immersed in her routine life and the harried poet found the relaxed and smooth journey with Death a welcome relief . The poet appreciates Death’s suave and elegant nature of Death.
The picture of a Death as a charming elegant gentleman recurs in this stanza too. Moreover, there is a contrast between the hustle and bustle of her life  suggested in the first stanza and the leisurely and pleasurable journey with death in this stanza.