She uses personification to portray Death and Immortality as characters. Her familiarity with Death and Immortality at the beginning of the poem causes the reader to feel at ease with the idea of Death. However, as the poem progresses, a sudden shift in tone causes readers to see Death for what it really is, cruel and evil. They drove along the lane and the speaker takes note of what she sees around her. She was in the process of putting away the life she knew and allowing this next stage of existence to take over. The most obvious of these are mortality and death.
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The Full Text of “Because I could not stop for Death —”
Interpretation by Dzifa Benson
Franklin ed. I feel like Emily Dickinson did, running her pale finger over each blade of grass, then caressing each root in the depths of the earth's primeval dirt, each tip tickling heaven's soft underbelly. I feel like Emily alone in her room, her hands folded neatly in her lap, waiting forever for one of those two daguerreotypes to embalm her precious soul. At my most attuned, the present is a pair of wings stretching forever in all directions, flapping calmly, calmly flapping.
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In the poem, a female speaker tells the story of how she was visited by "Death"— personified as a "kindly" gentleman—and taken for a ride in his carriage. This ride appears to take the speaker past symbols of the different stages of life, before coming to a halt at what is most likely her own grave—indeed, it seems she herself is already dead. Much of the poem's power comes from its refusal to offer easy or simplistic answers to life's greatest mystery—what happens when people die—and the poem can be read both as the anticipation of a heavenly Christian afterlife and as something altogether more bleak and down-to-earth. Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.