The analysis of the relationship between the life experiences and belief Emily Dickinson held and her poems by analyzing “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (1830-1886), an American poet, was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Living in a successful family which had an important status in the community, she lived a very introverted life. After having spent seven years in Amherst Academy, she carried on studying in Mount Holyoke Female Seminary for a short period of time. The locals considered her as an eccentric.
Maybe this was the reason why she started to be noted for wearing white clothing, and seldom greeting visitors. One of her closest friend Thomas Wentworth Higginson said:” Emily emerged from her wonted retirement and did her part as gracious hostess; nor would any one have known from her manner, I have been told, that this was not a daily occurrence. ” (http://www. gutenberg. org/dirs/etext01/1mlyd10. txt) Dickinson’s introverted world let her develop her unique thought and tone. Having never thought of letting the poems be published–it was called “the Poetry of the Portfolio,” –her poems were the full display of a writer’s own mind.
However, the few works published in her life time were largely altered by the publishers to fit the contemporary poetic rules. Dickinson’s poems were unique in her times. Besides the unconventional writing format of poetry: “containing short lines, typically lack titles, and often utilize slant rhyme as well as unconventional capitalization and punctuation,” her religious belief and the unconventional utterance were evident to be perceived. “She loved to speak of a compassionate Savior and the grandeur of the Scriptures, but she disliked the hypocrisy and arbitrariness of institutional church. We can infer that the writer possessed her distinctive way to appreciate God. Moreover, she often mentioned immortality, death, and eternity in her poems. In Because I Could Not Stop for Death (1924), Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves And Immortality. In the first stanza she portrayed the approach of death. In Calvinist dogma, “it is true that death passed upon all men through the First Adam” since he was expelled from the Garden and lost the reliance of immortality from Tree of Life and thus made death certain. http://geocities. com/shsnj_2000/theology/calvinism. html) (http://lifeafterdeath. eu/) The same belief can be inferred in the last stanza: Since then ‘t is centuries; but each Feels shorter than the day I first surmised the horses’ heads Were toward eternity. The underlined two lines indicate that Dickinson assumed that with the accompanying of death she was resuming and reentering the immortality. After the sketchy understanding of the religious part of her composing background, then the following is the subconscious part of her composing background.
According to William Cullen Bryant and Henry Thoreau, we can apply many of the characteristics of Dickinson’s verse in this poem: “2. Her style is elliptical — she will say no more than she must –suggesting either a quality of uncertainty or one of finality. ” For example, she held the word eternity until the last word of the last stanza to point out the main theme. “3. Her lyrics are her highly subjective — she knows no other consciousness. ” Emily Dickinson altogether used three I and at least ten me and my in this poem.
Because the extremely limited life circle and introverted world, it was nothing more easier than applying the protagonism (the first person point of view) in the verse. “4. Ambiguity of meaning and syntax. Wrote Higginson: ‘She almost always grasped whatever she sought, but with some fracture of grammar and dictionary on the way. ’” For example, in the fifth stanza: We paused before a house that seemed (was) A swelling of the ground; The roof was scarcely visible, (and) The cornice (was not a cornice) but a mound. “5.
Concreteness – it is nearly a theorem of lyric poetry that it is as good as it is concrete. Even when she is talking of the most abstract of subjects, Emily specifies it by elaborating it in the concreteness of simile or metaphor. ” Here we go to talk about the figurative language. Dickinson used personification to portray Death as a kind and civil gentleman who accompanies her to pass the life that she is busy with and Death is like a suitor who comes calling for the narrator to escort her to eternity. And she too mentioned that the immortality is another passenger in the carriage. http://www. cummingsstudyguides. net/Guides2/Dickinson. html#Characters)Therefore, from the interaction between the personified Death and the speaker we can perceive that the speaker is a woman who is sound in her decision to leave. She is too naive concerning Death’s intension for her. “Frank Bernard states that ‘at [the] poem’s opening the speaker is, to say the least, naive . . . . She does not have the foresight to dress warmly. . . and there is no luggage. ’” (http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/657821/emily_dickinsons_because_i_could_not. html? cat=38)
The metaphor in the poem is multiple: first, in the forth stanza, the speaker is only wearing gossamer, tippet, and tulle and feels cold. It means she had come to the late night of her life, and human race has nothing to armor themselves against the cold of death. Second, in the forth stanza, the writer chose the word gown to indicate that she went with death not with sadness but with the attitude to be a bride. Third, in the fifth stanza, the line “the tomb [is like] a house” points out that there is a place for her to dwell in the long time after passing away because death is not the end but “eternity. Forth, “The setting sun passed us” means that human race is a tiny existence that can only be dominated by the power of time. (http://www. cummingsstudyguides. net/Guides2/Dickinson. html#Top) The use of simile and irony are also significant: In the fifth stanza the writer used the simile:” a house that seemed a swelling of the ground. ” It indicates that the tomb is a swelling of the ground. The use of the irony is in the third stanza: We passed the school, where children strove At recess, in the ring; We passed the fields of gazing grain, We passed the setting sun.
The speaker illustrated the three images of the stage of life. Each of them is portrayed vividly, however, the speaker is getting away from them and soon entering the next stage, the final stage right after the sunset. “However, it is understood that when looking back on the experience, she realizes the significance of those seemingly mundane occurrences. ” (http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/657821/emily_dickinsons_because_i_could_not. html? cat=38) Analyzing this poem by new criticism, the theme is clear. Though Dickinson’s insights are profound, they are limited in topic. Because I could not stop for death” echoes the reoccurring theme of the inevitability of death. In this poem, Dickinson skillfully conveys that theme through a personification of Death as a courtly lover. Death is not the end but the eternity. (http://www. associatedcontent. com/article/657821/emily_dickinsons_because_i_could_not. html? cat=38) The Symbols in the poem are carriage, school, fields, and the setting sun. The carriage symbolizes the procedure of death. As the carriage moves, human beings experience their lives in each stage get and more and more closer to the final destination of life (death).
The school, fields, and the setting sun symbolize the early, middle, and late stage of life. The last one of the characteristics of Dickinson’s verse is obscurity and the space for another answer. Higginson said’ … she was obscure, and sometimes inscrutable; and though obscurity is sometimes, in Coleridge’s phrase, a compliment to the reader, yet it is never safe to press this compliment too hard. ’ “ • Is Death a kind, polite suitor? The speaker refers to his “kindness” and “civility. ” He drives her slowly; is this an expression of tact and consideration for her?
If he is the courteous suitor, then Immortality,who is also in the carriage (or hearse) would be their chaperon, a silent one. • Is Death actually a betrayer, and is his courtly manner an illusion to seduce her? Because of his kindness in stopping for her, she agrees to go with him (“put away / My labor and my leisure too”). Is Death really cruel? She is not properly dressed for their journey; she is wearing only a gossamer gown and tulle tippet (gossamer: very light, thin cloth; tulle: a thin, fine netting used for veils, scarfs, etc. tippet: covering for the shoulders). Is Immortality really an accomplice to Death’s deception? (http://academic. brooklyn. cuny. edu/english/melani/cs6/stop. html) From the above analysis it is not hard anymore for us to infer that Emily Dickinson who is a talented writer who conceived the vivid imagination in mind. Her life experiences and religious belief have influenced her verse a lot. From this poem Because I Could Not Stop for Death the another indicated her interpretation of death: Death is not the end but the eternity.
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