Emily Dickinson – Because I could not stop for death

One of Emily Dickinson’s most profound poems is “Because I could not stop for death”. The poem’s vagueness creates that state of inquisitiveness in the reader prolonging the interest to get an in-depth look at the poem. The poem has received much attention from critics who mainly try to get a glimpse of the poem from another perspective. This is familiar with most of her poems, in that they have attracted both admirers and critics alike with the same vigor.

At the beginning of the poem, in the first two lines; “Because I could not stop for death/He kindly stopped for me,” brings to the reader the central point or the main idea behind the whole poem. Different readers have had different understanding of the make-up of the poem, but they almost always agree on one thing in the poem, the theme- Death.

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There are some crucial parts in the poem that usually serve as the block towards understanding the meaning behind the writing of this poem. In the third stanza, the words “children” and “in the ring” bring out contrasting interpretations to different classes of readers.

The other part of the poem that assists the reader to get the poetic meaning is the first sentence in the fourth stanza, “Or rather he passed us”. The interpretations to this line also vary a great deal. In general, the different meanings to the phrases and the themes individuals gain from the poem vary, but they agree on some very important aspects of the poem.

For instance, both her supporters and critics are on terms that the poet has personified death. He likens it to a man who is on a journey or a trip with the persona in the poem. The other aspect that brings these two teams of ideologists to terms in the poem is the pictures the reader creates in his mind when he goes through the third stanza, pictures of the “children in the ring”, “Fields of gazing grain and also the mental image one creates of “the setting sun”.

They agree that the levels to which they are presented and their order creates in one an image of the stages a person goes through in life. The images depict a person’s growth from the time he is young till he attains maturity and finally his death. The other aspect that they both agree is that they had set off fully aware that it would neither be a long nor permanent journey.

This is evidenced by the kind of dressing they had worn, the “Gosamer” and ‘Tulle” are both indicative of his expectations about the type of journey it would have been a temporary journey. The other part of the poem with which they agree on is the line “the house that seemed/A swelling on the ground”. They agree that this in literal terms refers to a grave.

In spite of there being some points with which they are in agreement over, there are some areas they have totally different opinions. One school of thought takes up the most direct interpretation, an example is that of line one, ”Because I could not stop for death/ He kindly stopped for me.” They take it that because the character in the poem was so interested and involved in living that he never thought of death as a factor, death gently stopped by in its carriage to take person.

Others urge that from the speakers perspective death was not a reality. Others urge that the poem does infer to the biological death, rather it is a vision of what the rest of her life would be, one of isolation. According to this, the characters life was shrouded in abnormality, so tattered that it could only be compared to death. From this point henceforth, she intends to change her life for the good totally.

Emily Dickinson, like any other poet wrote her poems basing on the norms and factors that influence the society. The issues that touch on humanity live through time, in that they are never out of place since human wants are recurrent through generations. She knew that her poem would live through the generations this way, and that she would be remembered through history by her work. Therefore, this poem in totality is representative of her work in all aspects.

She picks on life, and revises the stages through life in her poem, at the same time maintaining vagueness so that it accommodates the different thinkers through time. This would give the people reading through it the chance to debate over her work, enhancing peoples’ remembrance and growth of the poem through time.

Works Cited

Amanda, D. ‘Interpretations and Analysis of Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.”’ Sept 2008.

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