Death and Dying Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2694 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 6  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Literature


In "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" (1890), Dickinson personifies Death, much like Donne did in his Holy Sonnet, and sees him, not as a slave or subordinate, but rather as a gentleman caller that accompanies her on her final carriage ride. This gentlemanly and chivalrous Death figure does not attempt to hurry the narrator in the poem to her destination, which in this case is "Eternity," but rather is patient with her and knows that the narrator will reach her destination at the right time. Unlike Donne's Death that is described as a slave, Dickinson's Death is described eloquently as she notes, "Because I could not stop for Death/He kindly stopped for me/we slowly drove, he knew no haste/And I had put away/My labor, and my leisure too. / For his civility" (lines 1-2, 5-8). In "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," the narrator accepts that Death is her companion, and possibly recognizes that Death has been her companion from the start of her journey -- from her birth -- and will continue to ride alongside her until the end of her journey, that is to say, that Death will be by her side until his duty has been completed.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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As the poem develops, the narrator begins to point out the things that she has passed on her journey; the narrator points out "the School...the Fields of Grazing Grain,...[and] the Setting Sun" (Dickinson, 1890, lines 9, 11-12). As the narrator rides along the path, she knows that Death is at her side, but does not know when he will call upon her, that is until she feels a chill as he finally passes the carriage. It is as this moment that the narrator knows that her end is near. She describes the experience, "The Dews drew quivering and chill -- / For only Gossamer my Gown -- / My tippet -- only Tulle" (Dickinson, 1890, lines 14-16). By describing the way that she is dressed, the narrator implies that she is prepared for her final journey and knows that she cannot take anything of worth or value with her, thus she dressed simply and humbly. The narrator's carriage ride -- and life -- come to an end when she "paused before a house that seemed / A swelling of the Ground -- / The Roof was scarcely visible -- / The Cornice -- in the Ground" (Dickinson, 1890, lines 17-20). Dickinson uses the "swelling of the Ground" and "The Cornice -- in the Ground" to describe the graves that she sees at the end of her journey. The "swelling of the Ground" points to the mounds that are formed after a coffin has been buried -- the swelling is formed by soil that has been displaced by a coffin. "The Cornice -- in the Ground" is meant to be descriptive of the tombstones that mark each grave in the cemetery. Through her acknowledgement and recognition of the house as her final destination, and realizing that arriving at the house means that her life has drawn to an end, the narrator confesses that she knew at the instant that she met Death -- or at the instant that she knew about death as a part of life -- that she recognized and came to terms with her mortality. Furthermore, she contends that it does not seem like enough time has passed since she first met her gentleman caller.

While Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" (1951) is structured as a villanelle and is dependent on structure, Emily Dickinson's "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" is more loosely formatted and relies on literary devices. In addition to the imagery that Dickinson uses to describe the things that she sees as she rides, how she is dressed, and her final resting place, Dickinson also relies on alliteration and anaphora to highlight and bring attention to the landmarks in her life that are passed during the course of the carriage ride.

Alliteration (n.d.) is the repetition of a particular word or sound within a literary construct. In "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" (1890), Dickinson uses alliteration to bring attention to the things that have made an impression on the narrator after meeting Death. The alliterative words in the poem include School and strove, Recess and ring, Gazing Grain, and Setting Sun in the third stanza; passed Us, Dews drew, Gossamer and gown, and Tippet and Tulle in the fourth stanza; and Since and "tis Centuries, and surmised, Horses" and Heads in the last stanza. The use of alliteration not only brings emphasis to certain words or images that the narrator notices, but also forces the reader to pay attention to what Dickinson is writing.

Anaphora (n.d.) can be described as the repetition of a word or phrase within a literary construct. In "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," Dickinson uses anaphora in the third stanza leading into the fourth. In the poem, the narrator notes, "We passed the School, where Children strove/At Recess -- in the Ring/We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain/We passed the Setting Sun/Or rather -- He passed us" (Dickinson, 1890, lines 9-13). By placing emphasis on the word "passed," Dickinson is not only establishing that time has passed, but she also creates a sense of movement and action within the poem. This lets the reader understand that the narrator was not in a race against Death, nor was she trying to escape him, but rather that she accepted him as a riding companion. Moreover, Dickinson has been prepared for Death since she first met him and states that she "surmised the Horses' Heads/Were toward Eternity" (lines 23-24).

Through their poetry, Thomas and Dickinson were able to explore their stances on Death. Thomas actively encouraged rebellion against death, arguing that it should only be accepted based on the individual's terms. Furthermore, Thomas argued that death was not peaceful or civil and that it was an intrusion on the living. On the other hand, Dickinson believed that death was a natural part of life and that it should be accepted without alarm. In "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," Dickinson is appreciative of Death for his patience and for allowing her to succumb to his will only when she was ready. Though Thomas and Dickinson differ on their perspectives about death, they both recognize that the event signals an end to life.

Works Cited

Alliteration. (n.d.). Accessed 22 April 2012 from,

Anaphora. (n.d.). Accessed 22 April 2012 from,

Dickinson, E. (1890) "Because I Could Not Stop For Death." Accessed 22 April 2012


Donne, J. (1633) "Death Be Not Proud." Accessed 6 February 2012 from,

Donne, J. (1633) "A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning." The Norton Anthology of English

Literature. Ed. M.H. Abrams. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1986.

Thomas, D. (1951). "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night." Accessed 22 April

2012 from,

Villanelle. (2012). Accessed 22 April 2012 from, [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Death and Dying" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Death and Dying.  (2012, April 23).  Retrieved August 4, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Death and Dying."  23 April 2012.  Web.  4 August 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Death and Dying."  April 23, 2012.  Accessed August 4, 2021.