Emily Dickinson & Her Outlook On Death

2495 words - 10 pages

The subject of death, including her own was a very prevalent theme in Emily Dickinson’s poems and letters. Some may find her preoccupation with death morbid, but this was not unusual for her time period. The mindset during Ms. Dickinson’s time was that of being prepared to die, in the 19th century people died of illness and accidents at an alarming rate, not to mention the Civil War had a high number of casualties, she also lived 15 years of her youth next to a cemetery. Dickinson’s view on death was never one of something to be feared she almost romanized death, in her poem “Because I Could not Stop for Death”, she actually personifies death while narrating from beyond the grave. In the first stanza she states “I could not stop for death so he kindly stopped for me” (Dickinson). Death is like a loving mate that is simply waiting for her to just slow down so he/she can take her on to her into eternity. As they journey forth into eternity she describes Death as a very patient individual, she says death “drives away slowly, no haste”, death knows that she can’t escape so he just patiently waits on her. Dickinson “anthropomorphizes Death as a kind and civil gentleman” (Shaw).
She shows her gratitude for Death being so patient and gentlemanly by putting away her labors and leisure’s that once had her preoccupied with everything but her impending journey to the afterlife. The way she symbolizes her approach to her impending afterlife Dickinson creates a mood of peace and tranquility while she moves towards her eternity. This poem represents the three stages of life through symbolism; the school “where children strove represents childhood”; fields of grazing grain” was a representation of maturity; and “setting sun represents the golden years or old age”. In the forth stanza she states that she starts to feel a slight chill as she approaches eternity, as she is underdressed stating that her “Gossamer” Dickinson is more suited for a wedding than for a funeral, her tomb or her home is her new residence. This is symbolic of her looking at death as a new beginning as opposed to a sad ending. There is a feeling of disappointment as she thinks that she is going towards eternity but she just ends up viewing the “House that Seemed a Swelling of the Ground” and then centuries later, reflects upon her journey towards and eternity she didn’t witness. To Dickinson death was not something to be afraid of but to rather embrace and accept because it was inevitable, yet as in her life ends up disappointed because death leads to nothingness.
This poem is written in ballad form which is odd because one would think of a ballad and think a love story or an author gushing on about nature not an allegory about personified Death. Dickinson both unites and contrasts love/courtship with death, experimenting with both reader’s expectations and the poetic convention dictating specific poem form. This is why Dickinson is widely hailed because of her...

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