Most readers may assume that Emily Dickinsons poem Because I Could Not Stop for Death would be dark and depressive, much like many poems based on or concerning with death. The reader, if intrigued to read the poem and not only the title, will be sure to find a pleasant surprise contained in Dickinsons writing as she gives a short and interesting narrative of life after death. The calm and relaxed tone along with the slightly upbeat rhythm of the poem portrays to the reader the high level of comfort and accepting attitude the deceased storyteller contains while riding with Death and there after.
Dickinson creates that same feeling of comfort the storyteller has in the reader as well by introducing Deaths actions with an amiable description of kindly (2), and later on referring to his Civility (8). The narrator also decides to put away / My labor and my leisure too (6-7) in repayment of his modesty. Death has come to this womens doorstep on this particular day to take her to the after life, yet she is not at the least bit apprehensive or a little worried about where it is exactly she is going or what is to come of her.
This is because the narrator is figuratively only giving her labor and leisure to Death in lines six and seven, but literally giving him her life. Life is nothing more than choices of labor and leisure. She simply accepts that her time has come and joins Death on his carriage along with Immortality (4). The statement of immortality on this line also displays that the woman knows of her everlasting life of this nature and seems to be easily satisfied. The ease of peacefully forgoing this journey hints that the storyteller may have been expecting to die soon and had taken mental preparations to help her accept that her time had come.
As the woman rides with Death to their or rather her destination, in stanza three she describes details of children at school, a field, and a setting sun. These thoughts are figuratively of her past life. The narrator explains literally that she and Death are riding in the carriage and they passed the School, where Children strove/ At Recessin the Ring (9-10), passed the Fields of Gazing Grain (11), and passed the Setting Sun (12). She is simply drawing reference to and remembering what she enjoyed at different times and at different stages in her past life.
When she was a young child she enjoyed being around children her age and playing at recess, specifically in the ring. The Fields of Gazing Grain (11) represents her working life and middle ages as a farmer; which she enjoyed greatly, which ties into earlier in the poem in lines six and seven, I had put away / My labor and my leisure too, because her labor and her leisure are one in the same, when she sets aside her life for Death, the driver of the carriage, she actually is giving him her own actual life.
As an older woman later in life on the farm, the daily setting of the sun becomes more and more important to her because she knows that her time is limited and the life she loves is setting on the farm just as the sun does every day. The first line of the forth stanza, Or ratherHe passed Us, further implies that the images that she was witnessing were indeed her own. With He representing time, Dickinson uses the verb passed just as before to further drive the correlation and relationship with the previous stanza.
The attitude of the main character at this point slightly changes from overly acceptant of death and the after life to slightly scared and unsure of her surroundings and what is to come of her. The narrator now realizes that it was her life that had flashed before her eyes and is reminded that she is indeed deceased because The Dews drew quivering and chill (14). The dew has settled on her skin as a result of the coolness of her body. She disagrees and offers a reason to why the Dews drew quivering (14).
She explains that her gown and scarf are only made of very thin material and because of the use of the word For she seems to be passing the blame onto her clothing as a cause for the dew to form on her body, For only Gossamer, my Gown– / My Tippetonly Tulle (15-16). Dickinsons abilities to create images really stand out in the fifth stanza and further exploit the main characters reluctance and fear of what now lies ahead in her life after death. We paused before a House that seemed / A Swelling of the Ground (17-18).
Until these lines pictures of nature were painted with calm, serene, and beautiful language and text. A Swelling of the Ground (18), really grasps the reader as this house that is engulfed with foliage and forest or jungle debris. The house doesnt seem as inviting and pretty to the narrator as the carriage that picked her up seemed to be. The Roof was scarcely visible– / The Cornicein the Ground (19-20), further presents a feeling of reluctance to the reader to enter such a building and continues to help draw such a horrendous environment in which the character is both looking at and at the same time feeling inside.
The house also represents an actual grave and the burying of the woman when she enters ensuring her death and allowing her to pass into the after life. A conclusion is quickly given and the mood, tone, and feel from the first half of the poem is back during the quick ending of the narrative. Centuries have past since the story had occurred but the woman states and yet / Feels shorter than the Day (21-22). She is enjoying herself in life after death although she became reluctant and uneasy to enter her grave but overcame them; which allowed her to leave the life she once knew and start a new one after death where she will be for eternity.