The Truth and Mystery of Death

April 13, 2009
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Emily Dickinson has become famous for her poems on death. The poems “I Heard a Fly Buzz - When I Died” and “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” both portray Dickinson’s sincere feelings on the topic. She uses clever voicing to describe death, powerful themes to describe it, and gripping literary devices such as allusions, personification, and alliteration to keep the reader entertained. Young Emily Dickinson was traumatized when her second cousin grew ill and died in April 1844. Written almost twenty years later, these two poems show how Dickinson overcame that traumatic experience and came to the realization everyone will eventually face death, and it should not be something to fear. In these two poems, Dickinson, fascinated by death, takes the topic to a whole new level for most readers.

In the poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Dickinson interprets death as a polite gentleman, who drives a person in his carriage to their coffin and eternity. The deceased lady in the poem describes how death stopped for her and took her away. They drove through her life’s memories slowly, all the way past the setting sun, meaning her death. Then, they stopped before her grave in the ground, which would be her new home. In the poem “I Heard a Fly Buzz - When I Died,” Dickinson again uses the voice of someone who had died to explain that death is no more violent then an ordinary house fly buzzing around. Dickinson’s clever wording, descriptions, and images let the meaning shine through.

In both poems, Dickinson presents death as something everyone faces, which a person has no need to fear. These strong metaphors give people hope and comfort, knowing that death happens to everyone. In “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Dickinson quietly compares marriage to the death of a woman’s freedom. This interesting connection shows what Dickinson thought of marriage. The tone of the poems truly sets the theme. For example, in the poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Dickinson pronounces “Because I could not stop for death - he kindly stopped for me.” These lines create a non-imposing feeling to readers, which adds to the meaning.

Dickinson uses some excellent literary devices to draw the reader into the topic. In “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Dickinson’s personification of death as a proper gentleman is particularly powerful. She also uses literary devices such as allusions, referring to events in the past. For example, when driving in the carriage with Death, the individual revisits their life’s events. This type of allusion sets the tone for the rest of the poem. Additionally, Dickinson uses other metaphors, alliteration, personification, and others to enhance her poems.

It is easy to see how Emily Dickinson has become famous for her poetry. Her poems are remarkably clever, concise, and for the most part, to-the-point. Dickinson creates vivid imagery of death that create powerful themes. Her literary devices and metaphors help the reader understand and stay attentive to the main message. Emily Dickinson and her opinions on death will for sure create interesting feelings in most readers. Hopefully, most will take the theme to heart, and not worry about dying.


Harmon, William. The Classic Hundred Poems. Second Edition. New York, NY: Columbia
University Press, 1998.

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Sonja said...
Apr. 26, 2009 at 2:43 am
Hi Kory, You did a great job, on this writing assignment, I really like it! XD E3 is the BEST!!

Sonnja (Sec9)
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