Because I Could Not Stop For Death

845 words - 4 pages

Read over "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson.

1. List as many examples of metaphors and similes as possible.

The carriage, in stanza 1, is a metaphor for a hearse.
When they “passed the setting sun” (12) it implies that she has finally died.
When they “paused before a house that seemed / A swelling of the ground” (17-18), the word house is a metaphor for grave.

2. Explain the personification.

In Emily Dickinson's poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, death is personified in an unusual way. Instead of the expected dark, evil, Grim-reaper depiction of death, Dickinson portrayed him as more of a gentleman. Death became a character, able to carry out a human action, who “kindly stopped” (2) for the speaker, since she could not stop for him. He's described as a man who “knew no haste” (5), a courteous fellow. Another example of personification is when we discover that Immortality has decided to tag along for the carriage ride, as Death and Immortality seemingly go hand in hand. Lastly, Dickinson utilized personification, when she wrote, “We passed the setting sun. / Or rather, he passed us” (12-13). The sun is called a he instead of an it, and is reported as being able to pass the speaker and Death. Dickinson's use of this literary device, especially the personification of death, leads the reader to take a different approach in the way they think about the afterlife: a calmer, more accepting view of one's passing to whatever lies beyond the grave.

3. Choose two symbols in the poem and explain them as thoroughly as possible.

1. In stanza two, the speaker told how she and Death “paused before a house that seemed / A swelling of the ground” (17-18). The first thought that crossed my mind: Hey, it's a Hobbit hole! However, I realized that didn't really fit the context of the poem, so I kept reading. She said, “The roof was scarcely visible, / The cornice but a mound” (19-20). Okay, since the roof was just distinguishable, that meant that the rest of this “house” was underground. That's when it struck me; an underground dwelling that was barely “A swelling of the ground” (18), she was talking about a grave! Dickinson's use of diction in this case displayed the speaker's calmness, even though she was looking at her own grave. Perhaps she was trying to tell the reader that death and the grave is not something to be feared.

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