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The writers of the nineteenth century composed works on a wide range of topics, however, they often used the subject of death. The theme of death has been approached in various ways. The famous Emily Dickinson is one of the various poets who used death as a prime focus in her poems. Through this poem, Dickinson builds up her irregular understanding of death and, thusly, makes a poem full out of symbolism that is both remarkable and intriguing.

In Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for death,” Dickinson’s use of symbolism creates a poem that is both interesting and fascinating. Born in Amherst, Massachusetts, Emily Dickinson became one of the most notable American poets. Her unique style of writing has never been captured by any other poet. She was brought up in a New England Puritan town, and heavily influenced by the metaphysical writers of the seventeenth century.

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While Emily was extremely prolific as a poet, and regularly sent poems to family and friends, she was not publicly recognized amid her lifetime. Out of 1,775 poems only seven ended up being published. Her sister found these poems, and therefore published them in the prominent book “The Poems of Emily Dickinson,” which includes her poem “Because I could not stop for death.” “Though she was unique among her contemporaries, she had something in common with them” (Vasanthi).

Emily Dickinson has an exceptionally dull topic to the mass majority of her poems. She is known to have written poems that frequently reference death, however, this is not to say that she did not ever write in good spirit about joyful times. “Emily Dickinson’s attitude towards death was astonishing. She reacted to death with less horror as one can see in the poem, ‘Because I could not stop for death'” It is almost impossible to ignore her frequent references to morbidity. Some researchers say that Emily’s recurring theme of demise is due to her spending most of her time in isolation, other than a few encounters. Others believe that it is because of her romantic relationship with Reverend Charles Wadsworth that terminated with him leaving her. Due to the time period that Dickinson lived in and the fact that her poems were not published until after death, it is hard to say what inspired her saddened poems.

One of the main uses of symbolism in Dickinson’s poem is her reference to death as a kind and gentle persona. “At the poem’s opening the speaker is, to say the least, naive. She sees Death as kind and gentlemanly, readily getting into his carriage to journey to destinations unknown” (Bernhard). In “Because I could not stop for death” one sees death personified. Death is introduced right away as the leading character and focus of the poem, performing a human action.

The speaker feels no fear when Death picks her up in his carriage, she just sees it as an act of kindness, as she was too busy to find time for him. “‘Because I could not stop for death’ unites love and death, for death comes to the persona in the form of a gentleman caller” (Faulkner 1042). As the poem continues, one sees Emily Dickinson symbolize the journey to death with the carriage ride. “Most of the various interpretations of Dickinson’s much-discussed poem seem to assume one significant feature of supposed Christian belief in the afterlife, namely, that the soul at death immediately attains its eternal state” (Spencer). The topic of the poem relates to how death is waiting to take you on that carriage ride home, the way God is waiting to take you to a new home in heaven.

In line 5 Emily shows that the character death is driving along slowly and not putting the narrator in any rush. This symbolizes a slow death, such as an illness or old age. In the third stanza, Dickinson writes about what they see along the carriage ride. The first thing they pass is a school playground where children “strove at recess.

” “My hunch is that their game is the one called ‘ring-a-ring-o-roses.’ This venerable game, as everyone knows, involves two or more children holding hands and forming a ‘ring’ that then moves in a circle, while its individual members recite a rhyme” (Monteiro). Ironically enough, ring-a-ring-o-roses is said to refer to the bubonic plague. The bubonic plague causes a slow death as we see the narrator in this poem journeying. So one can infer from the historical background that the children playing on the playground symbols her slow death. One can also interpret this stanza as a symbolic trip through Dickinson’s life. “Figuratively, the poem may represent the three stages of life: ‘School, where children strove’ may represent childhood; ‘Fields of gazing grain,’ maturity; and ‘setting sun,’ old age” (Shaw).

Finally, in the last line of this stanza Dickinson says “We passed the setting sun.” This line symbolizes death and darkness by the use of a sunset. Moving on to the fourth stanza. In this stanza things become more dark and sinister. In line 13 Emily states that the sun had passed her. Quite literally, if one reads on, this can symbolize the warmth, or the light, leaving the narrator as she dies.

In the fourth quatrain, she depicts the speaker’s light type of dress in detail. She does as such in lines 15 and 16 as she expresses, “For just Gossamer, my Gown-, My Tippet-just Tulle-.” Through the picture of gossamer, the reader can see the fine, shaky fabric that her outfit is made of. “In these lines the speaker’s temporal existence, which allows her to quiver as she is chilled by the ‘dew,’ merges with the spiritual universe…” (Shaw).

The fact that she is under-dressed for this journey also reflects that she is under-prepared. This stanza echoes what we discovered in the beginning line. This is not her choice and she was not planning this trip with Death. If the reader hasn’t quite realized it yet, the reader is going to die.

This next quatrain shows death taking the narrator to her burial spot. “I believe Dickinson’s verse describes perfectly an above-ground burial vault, of which there were many in the New England of her day” (Abbott). “These stone structures, rectangular in shape, were formed by two parallel dry-stone walls of varying lengths, six to eight feet apart, six to eight feet high, a shorter back wall, a dry-stone facade with a portal closed by a door, or slab of marble or slate, inscribed, when used for burial, with the names of the interred. Stone slabs laid flat or corbelled formed the roof. The entire structure was banked with earth and sod and grassed over, resembling Dickinson’s “Swelling of the ground.

” The roof was “scarcely visible” because it was sodded over and grassed. “The Cornice” was “in the Ground” because the two flanks of the mound at each side of the door sloped down to ground level, where they were, in effect, hidden” (Abbott). “The figure of the ‘House’ in these poems expands the symbolism immeasurably beyond the moldy receptacle of an underground grave, to a hospitable dwelling” (Abbott). Another small, generally unnoticed example of symbolism is the “swelling of the ground.” One can see that this stanza is a big turning point in this poem.

The reader can ultimately comprehend the narrator is close to her death. In the last quatrain

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