Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” Analysis

Subject: Literature
Pages: 2
Words: 612
Reading time:
3 min
Study level: College

The poem “because I could not stop for death” by Emily Dickinson explores death, eternity, its cyclical nature, and uncertainties associated with its occurrence. The poet personifies death from the beginning and allows the speaker to narrate experiences after death. At the start of the poem, the reader is introduced to a great tone and mood that makes it comfortable to approach the topic of death. As the poem progresses, the tone changes to depict death as cruel and sinister. The mood change is also depicted by an irregular rhyme scheme, making it more interesting to read. The writer approaches the themes of death, eternity, and mortality using different styles, including changes in mood and tone, irregular rhyme schemes, and different literary devices that attract the reader’s attention.

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There are mood and tone changes in different sections of the poem. The speaker’s voice is calm, and she appears to be aware of the surroundings and less emotional about the happenings within the first few stanzas. According to Suljic (50), the mood and tone of a poem are crucial in controlling the reader’s feelings when reading the poem. The mood and tone change when the speaker is about to die. The tone shifts to a sinister version, as shown by the use of “chill” and “quivering” (Dickinson, line 14). In stanza four, the speaker is somehow disappointed after realizing that she is underdressed and that the environment is quite cold. The speaker has finally learned that death appeared to gentlemen but has finally left her with no help in the cold and damp grave.

The poem has six stanzas of quatrains that lack a single rhyme pattern despite some rhyming scheme sections. Irregular rhyming structure allows a poet to capture the reader’s attention by making the speaker seem sincere, normal, and more believable (Sriningsih et al. 1). The iambic trimeter used in the poem creates great emotional encounters by making the poem more artistic. The meter is more consistent, supporting a continuous flow for the reader.

In addition to personification, Dickinson utilizes other literary devices such as allusion and alliteration. An example of alliteration is depicted in the third stanza by the words “school” and “strove”(Dickinson, line 9). Death is personified throughout the poem, where it represents a suitor who entices the speaker into the carriage to embark on a journey to different destinations. Death is presented as a close friend due to personification at the poem’s beginning as it stops to pick the speaker for a ride. Allusion can be explained in how the speaker is experiencing a situation of after-life compared to the Christian idea of heaven. Enjambment is also evident when transitioning from the third to the fourth line of the first stanza. According to Bullock et al. (10), Enjambment forces a reader to experience tension or urgency by being pulled to read the following lines. In this poem, the enjambment technique creates a chaotic and nervous mood as experienced as a reader moves from the third to the fourth line of the first stanza.

The poem represents the happenings associated with death which is personified. Acting as a suitor, death lured the speaker to engage in a ride only to leave her in the cold and dark grave. The mood and tone of the poem change from a friendly to a cruel one to portray the reality of death and mortality. When the speaker starts shivering, it is clear that death has occurred; she is in the grave with no assistance from anyone. The use of different literary devices and irregular rhyme patterns helps control the poem’s mood and tone to explore the topic and maintain the reader’s attention.

Works Cited

Bullock, Owen, and Jordan Williams. “Reading and Trauma: How the Openness of Contemporary poetry and Haiku Facilitates Engagement.” New Writing (2021): 1-14. Web.

Dickinson, Emily. “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” Gleeditions. Web.

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Sriningsih, M. G. Poetry. Media Nusa Creative (MNC Publishing), 2022. Web.

Suljic, Vesna. “Translating Poetry: Can you Learn it?.Epiphany. Journal of Transdisciplinary Studies 13.2 (2020): 46-71. Web.