Literary Devices in "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" Term Paper

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Literary Devices in "Because I Could Not Stop for Death"

Emily Dickinson's "Because I Could Not Stop For Death" recounts how Death follows the narrator along her final journey and though the title insinuates that the narrator does not have time to see what her gentleman caller wants, he is patient and is in no rush to complete his task. In the poem, Dickinson personifies Death and makes it clear that she accepts death as a natural part of the life cycle and something that cannot be avoided. Dickinson uses several literary devices in the poem including personification, simile, alliteration, and anaphora to different degrees in order to demonstrate the interaction and relationship between the narrator and Death.

In "Because I Could Not Stop For Death," the narrator tells the story of how Death is one of her companions on her final carriage ride. In order to make Death more realistic and a tangible concept, Dickenson personifies him as a gentleman caller who is patient with her even though she refuses to stop for him. The narrator contends that Death is chivalrous and states, "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" (Dickinson, 1890, lines 1-2, 5-8).

The narrator also describes the things that she sees along the way to her final journey, which include "the School…the Fields of Grazing Grain…[and] the Setting Sun" (lines 9, 11-12). When Death does pass her, the narrator states that she felt a chill. She states, "The Dews drew quivering and chill -- /For only Gossamer my Gown -- /My tippet -- only Tulle," and because she is simply dressed, she feels the chill's effects more than she would if she were properly dressed (lines 14-16). The narrator's carriage ride ends when the group stops in front of a house. This house is symbolic of a tomb and is described as "A swelling of the Ground -- /The Roof was scarcely visible -- /The Cornice -- in the Ground" (lines 18-20). The swelling of the ground references the mounds of soil that form over tombs due to the displacement of earth and the cornices refer to tombstones that mark each grave. The narrator…

Sources Used in Document:


Dickinson, E. (1890). "Because I Could Not Stop For Death." Accessed 14 April 2012.

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