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

Subject: Literature
Pages: 8
Words: 2226
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: College


Dickinson uniquely approaches Death, personifying it to demonstrate that he is not afraid of Death. The author depicts eternity as timeless and examines the moral experience through the lens of immortality. Dickinson combines immortality and Death in a carriage supposed to pick her up. This fusion brings out the Christian art of personification, in which humans are promised immortality when their initial life ends. Dickinson presents Death in a shifting tone, where a tranquil demeanor can be felt before experiencing Death, but the style changes to a chilly behavior once it arrives. Different techniques demonstrate how the narrator is unconcerned with Death because it is a natural part of existence (Dickinson 223). In general, Dickinson discusses Death and the immortal life, which Christians believe is the next stage of a person’s life after Death.

Faur interprets Dickinson’s ideas on Death as a collection of previous images that Dickinson utilizes to clarify some limitless sensations by building a link between reality and imagination. Faur also discusses Dickinson’s thoughts on Death as a link between the known and the unknown (111). When comparing the past, the author believes it is critical to analyze Dickinson’s amalgamations. The author, for example, takes Dickinson’s descriptions of past life experiences and compares them to imagined future temporal standards (Faur 110). One of the most amazing things Faur notices in Dickinson’s poem is how he uses a courteous and civil gentleman to describe Death in a positive light.

Qiao investigates whether Dickenson’s use of aphoristic diction is crucial to the recurring topic of Death in her work. The author carries out this research by combining Dickinson’s other five poems dealing with Death (Qiao 56). Qiao examines the employment of many literary strategies in the five poems on Death, including sarcasm, imagery, symbolism, even dichotomy, and diction.

Poem Analysis

Dickinson’s Ideas of Death

Death is represented as a sweet and compassionate guy in Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” Like many of Dickinson’s other poems about Death and immortality, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” recounts the speaker’s first denial of Death and subsequent acceptance of the afterlife. A flashback is used to convey the poem’s point of view. The speaker has already died, but this is not revealed until the last stanza, when he adds, “Since then, ’tis centuries” (Dickinson 223). The poetry is a commentary on the author’s life and his road to Death. Dickinson begins the poem with the word “because,” making the reader believe that the narrator responds to a query. The poem feels more vibrant and alive due to this, which is strange considering the poem is based on dying. Dickinson’s brilliant diction differentiates the poem from others by quickly revealing the poem’s moral.

Death is ordinarily undesirable in poetry; however, it is represented as a patient gentleman in this poem. Death is a courteous gentleman who pays the speaker a surprise visit. The phrase “Because I couldn’t stop for Death, he generously stopped for me” reflect the two characters’ extraordinarily close friendship (Dickinson 223). The speaker did not have the option of choosing when she wanted to die because she could not stop Death. This phrase states a fact; humans do not have the option of choosing when to die. Because the speaker has a stressful schedule and cannot halt for Death, Death comes to her house to take her for a gondola ride. However, during the carriage ride, the speaker and Death are joined by immortality. Death is represented as a metaphor throughout the poem to show what Death is genuinely about.

Death is comfortingly depicted in this poetry, and it practically behaves as a buddy. Death is typically poorly described, but in Dickinson’s poem, he has introduced it as a kind and gentleman. Dickinson deviates from literary conventions by showing Death as a beautiful character (Dickinson 223). She portrays death as a natural occurrence, which is strange considering that Death is the end of life. Death can be a dreadful and terrifying experience, but Dickinson makes it more bearable by depicting him as a kind and compassionate guy.

Death may be driving the carriage gradually out of contemplation. The chariot represents the vessel that will carry the narrator to his demise. The journey is enjoyable, and Dickinson depicts the road to infinity as a pleasurable journey. Death “slowly drove” the chariot, alluding to the poem’s description of a protracted death. “The vehicle held but ourselves, and Immortality (3-4),” the speaker says, emphasizing the speaker’s link with Death by using the word “ourselves.” Dickinson’s usage of “immortality” is the most challenging element of the phrase (Dickinson 223). Because the speaker travels in Death’s carriage, the reader might conclude that Dickinson meant “mortality.” In the sentence, the word “immortality” may imply that the speaker does not consider Death the end of life but rather the beginning of eternity, which is alluded to again in the final line.

Death was not in a rush, as the speaker reveals when he declares, “We leisurely drove, he knew no haste (5).” This slow, sustained movement could indicate that the Death mentioned in the poem is not hasty. In line five, Dickinson switches from “we” to “he.” Using “we” in the sentence could imply that the individual considers she has some control over the carriage’s speed, but the flip to “he” notifies the user that Death has complete control. Because the rate of the carriage trip symbolizes the pace of the speaker’s Death, the character Death defines the velocity of the speakers dying (Qiao 57). The leisurely pace of the carriage generates a suspenseful pondering in the poem, implying that the narrator is not terrified of Death. “I had put away my effort, and my leisure too, for his kindness,” the speaker says (Dickinson 223). Because of Death’s kindness and pleasure, the speaker relinquished her relaxation and joy. Death’s compassion and empathy might be construed as the speaker giving up her liberty in return for Death’s consideration and respect. Death has taken over the speaker’s delight, and the presenter appears to be practically enamored with him.

Mortality and the speaker walk through a schoolhouse where children play, and the children’s youth is in direct opposition to Death. Dying is connected with frost, and the sunset shown in the poem exemplifies Death’s chill. The glow of the light fades as the sun sinks into the horizon, suggesting Death’s chill. Sunsets represent the conclusion of the day and the end of life. The passing of the kindergarteners, on the other hand, is a common occurrence, and this could depict passing as commonplace and unavoidable. In lines eleven and twelve, the recurrence of “we passed,” sometimes described as an anaphora, represented the carriage’s leisurely pace (Dickinson 223). Because of the leisurely speed of the voyage, the speaker becomes a participant rather than an observer.

The persona and Death are now on their way home. The house, however, is not just any residence; it is the speaker’s burial site. Death has taken the presenter to a hidden dwelling behind a bit of elevation in the ground. The house is underground and represents a cemetery. Rather than feeling apprehensive when she arrives at the cemetery, the speaker is serene and at rest because she is at ease with Death (Qiao 57). The poet and Death “paused before a house,” which is the poem’s second pause, the others being after Death came to a halt for the speaker. This stop can aid in determining whether the second pause signals the completion of the voyage (Faur 113). Rather than outright telling the audience that the narrator has arrived at her grave, Dickinson presents it as a home, both soothing and liberating.

The poem’s final stanza explains that this adventure took place centuries ago. The poem’s viewpoint is revealed through a reminiscence. As a result, the speaker is deceased all through the poem. The author demonstrates that the memory “feels shorter than before,” implying that it is indeed vibrant (Dickinson 223). In the last parallel pairs, the horses represent the speaker’s journey to Death and her voyage into eternity. The horses’ heads extend the carriage. The horses’ heads are slender and angular, a little like an arrowhead penetrating the barrier separating life and Death.

Dickinson depicts dying as something that is still not out of the usual. Death does not frighten the speaker, and he embraces it as a part of everyday life. The author can showcase the inevitability of Death in the poetry by using literary methods such as personification and symbolism. Death is portrayed as a lovely and friendly man. Every image in the poem is connected to the central theme; these are all representations of demise (Qiao 58). The poem is based on the speaker’s life left behind and needs to explore the impending Death. To represent Death, Dickinson employs the imagery of mortality, transcendence, and infinity.


The poem is divided into six quatrains, each with four lines. The rhyme is unpredictable or irregular, but it resembles a sonnet pattern known as iambic tetrameter. This rhyme scheme highlights one of the poem’s primary themes, unpreparedness. Dashes are essential in poetry because they cause the reader to stop and reflect on the things surrounding them rather than rushing through the sections. It also propels the reader to the following paragraph, like a thread, tugging us forward. The emphasis draws attention to the words and makes them appear more substantial. Dickinson capitalizes “Death” to personify Death as a noble suitor driving a horse-drawn chariot. This poetry also uses repetition because the word “passed” is repeated numerous times to stress the environs, such as “the school” or “the fields.” Dickinson goes directly to the point with a definitive statement in the opening line, “Because I could not stop for Death,” which also serves as the title (Dickinson 223). Dickinson develops this idea of “Because,” which leads the reader to believe that the character is responding to an inquiry. In contrast to other works in which the narrator adopts a more observational perspective, the poem appears energetic and vibrant from the start.


Dickinson employs embodiment to create characters out of Death and immortality. Initially, her familiarity with Death and eternity makes the reader feel at peace with the concept of Death. Nevertheless, as the poem progresses, the tone shifts, causing readers to view Death as cruel and horrible. The poet’s tone of calm tolerance of Death is carried throughout the poem, generating an uncanny effect and suggesting that Death was something pleasant and kind to the poet (Qiao 57). She embraces mortality in the opening verse, seeing him as a dear friend, maybe because she believes she will merely be departing from this world to something greater. “We slowly drove, he knew no haste” is an old-fashioned way of signaling death did not speed or hurry, implying that Death’s trip was gradual and consistent (Dickinson 223). She seems serene and contemplative as she walks past the children and the grain field, which appear strangely typical and make Death seem like an everyday occurrence.

Even though we still know the protagonist is not terrified of Death, the poem’s leisurely tempo produces a sense of drawn-out tension. “And I had to put away My labor and my leisure too, for his civility,”‘ in this line, she relinquished worrying about business and pleasure since Death was so courteous and attractive (Dickinson 223). This infatuation diverted her attention away from everything. “We slowly drove, he knew no haste” is an old-fashioned way of signaling Death did not speed or hurry, implying that Death’s trip was gradual and consistent (Dickinson 223). As the persona progresses towards the future, this also signifies that she is starting to see beyond her life. Through the sibilance of “Setting sun” and the alliteration of “Gazing grain,” which denotes the immediacy of Death, “We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain– We passed the setting sun-” creates a more dark and wicked impression (Dickinson 223). As her chariot stops next to her burial site, the line “We pause before a House that appeared A Swelling of the Ground” confirms that the character is about to die (Dickinson 223). She had hoped to find a gorgeous paradise-like home but found a deep hole. This moment would be when she realizes that eternity is not the paradise she had envisioned.


The poet uses visual imagery to transport the reader on a journey with him to express the primary themes that repeat throughout the poem. Childhood, maturity, and elderhood are represented by the consecutive views of interacting with children, fields of grain, and the amber glow, respectively. Dickinson’s original notion that we must welcome the end of power that is inventible sensed by all living organisms represents the theme of mortality (Qiao 57). Her immediate reaction to Death runs counter to the conventional standard of valuing life. Her distinct perspective on the subject is evident as she begins to paint a picture of Death that is neither cruel nor frightening, but rather a pleasant and tranquil dying. As the poem advances into her afterlife, she realizes that this is not the case, as “we passed the sinking sun” implies (Dickinson 223). As the sun goes down on her life and her dying day approaches, the brightness fades, and a moist cold settles in, representing the hereafter.

Works Cited

Dickinson, Emily. “Because I Could Not Stop For Death.” The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, 1960: 223-24.

Faur, Elena. “The metaphors for Death and the Death of conceptual metaphors in poetry. An analysis based on Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I Could Not Stop For Death. ” International Conference on Languages, E-Learning and Romanian Studies, 2018: 108-15.

Qiao, Yang. “Thematic Interpretation of “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson.” International Conference on Humanities, Culture, Arts and Design (ICHCAD), China, 2019: 56-59.