Analysis of 'Because I Could not Stop for Death'

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About this sample


Words: 1803 |

Pages: 4|

10 min read

Published: Aug 30, 2022

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Words: 1803|Pages: 4|10 min read

Published: Aug 30, 2022

Analysis of ‘Because I Could Not Stop For Death’
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Emily Dickinson, the renowned American poet, is celebrated for her unique style and introspective approach to her craft. Born in 1830 in Amherst, USA, into a prominent family associated with Amherst College, her literary legacy endures through her idiosyncratic writing style characterized by capitalization and dashes. Despite leading an isolated life, Emily Dickinson's poetry resonates with readers of all ages and backgrounds. Her work delves into themes of faith and death, offering deeply personal reflections. While her social commentary is limited, her intense and introspective exploration of the human psyche leaves a lasting impact.

One of her most iconic poems, "Because I could not stop for Death," published posthumously in 1890, is a masterpiece that takes readers on a journey with death itself. Through vivid imagery, Dickinson portrays death not as an end but as a transition to immortality, challenging traditional perceptions of mortality and sadness. This poem, like many of her others, showcases her penchant for dashes and careful word choices. Emily Dickinson's contributions to American poetry continue to be revered, inviting readers to ponder the mysteries of existence, death, and eternity through her thought-provoking verses.

Table of contents

  1. Introduction About Author and Poem
  2. Critical Analysis
  3. Summary
  4. Conclusion of Poem
  5. Works Cited

Introduction About Author and Poem

Emily Dickinson was born in Amherst, 1830 in USA. Emily Dickinson is a famous American poetess. She was famous through her poems were published in her life. She belongs to a prominent family. Amherst college was founded by her grandfather. She wrote many poems using capitalization and dashes. She has her own idiosyncratic writing style. She led a very introspective and isolated life. Social problems do not figure in her poetry. She was able to give a great idea of intensity of her mind. Emily Dickinson generally deals with problems of faith and death. Her experience of life was limited. Her poems are deeply personal. The first volume of her poetry was published in 1890 and the last in 1955. The poetry of Emily Dickinson is widely read among people of all ages and interests.

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The famous poem of Emily Dickinson “Because I could not stop for Death” was published after her death in 1890. Because I could not stop for death is the great master piece of American’s poetry and famous poem of the Emily Dickinson. In the poem, a women tell a story about her. In this poem speaker tells from beyond the grave, telling her journey with death. She says that we cannot stop for death. We are busy in our works. Something very cinematic in the poem. Writer is too much busy for death. She tells the story of how she was visited the death. Her poem describes a close encounter with immorality and also with death. In poetry, death is described as the end of literature and also associated with feelings of sorrows. But Emily Dickinson explains that death is not the end of literature or sadness. She says that death is the new element of inspiration in poetry. She discussed about encounter of women with death who passed away centuries ago.

Critical Analysis

Emily Dickinson writes many poems on death. Because I could not stop for death is the famous and most interesting poem of Emily Dickinson. The poem is based on 6 stanzas with full rhyme. The death is the main theme of the poem. In her poem because I could not stop for death explains a close encounter with death and also a close encounter with immortality. This poem is based on 6 stanzas that is divided into sets of four line. Emily Dickinson writes about death. But the journey she describes is intriguing. One of the curious thing about poem is the combination of ‘work’ and ‘play’ ‘labor’ and ‘leisure’ and ‘activeness’ and ‘passiveness’. Death is kind, drive with care and has a politeness about him. In the first line of the poem, the speaker uses the famous line “because I could not stop for death”, she says that he kindly stops for me. This phrase hints at the personification that is going to be utilized throughout the stanzas to describe the experience of entering the after line. Death stop for a speaker and helped her into the carriage that “held just ourselves/ and immorality”.

The most striking feature used in the poem is dash (-). A comma or colon is used in most of her poems. Dickinson deals with death again and again. The speaker has no fear of death. The speaker is dead and tell about her journey with death which is personified. She would think and write about human nature, experience, and also write for human’s dealings. Death is seen as kind and courteous. Death seems to be very common thing but it is not very common to discuss it. The tone is the voice of speaker in the poem is calm and measured. The mood of the poem is emotional that the poet is attempting to create for the reader.

In first stanza, the poetess represents human race, she says that she is too busy in thinking about death. The word “because” is a clever way to start. The speaker of the poem being visited by a gentleman who is personified as death. This make the poem alive and active. She could not stop for death means that the poetess did not have choice about she was to die. The line is ends with dash symbolizes the characteristics of Dickinson. Death is a type of a gentleman. This is also a kind of spoiler. Immorality is the most interesting word in the stanza that give us thinking. The poetess says that death is a friend which taken us from temporary world and connect us to a permanent and real world.

In second stanza, they are taking their time getting too. The speaker is not afraid of death because death is so charming and polite. She gave up thinking about work and play. He distracted her from anything else. The poetess says that the death was not in haste but man was in hurry. The man has no time to thought about death. The poetess left all her leisure and labor. The poetess realizes the importance of journey.

In third stanza, the carriage is driven by death. There further described their journey to different places and these places resembles different moments in their life. The carriage driven by death took her through different stages of life. They see children are playing in the ground during recess. Then they pass “the fields” and “setting sun”. the field grains and the sun are more general scenes. The setting of sun symbolizes end of the day. We should notice the phrase “we passed” which is repeated called anaphora.

In the fourth stanza, the sun passes her. Dickinson thought that’s what death is like – the light, the sun. The word “gossamer” is used to describe delicate material and “tippet” is a shoulder cape or shawl which is silky like gossamer. The dew of night is setting in because sun set. She now feels cold and wearing warm clothing. Cold is associated with death in movies and also in literature. Dickinson is lowering the temperature on her.

In the fifth stanza, these lines settles everything. The speaker Emily Dickinson is going to die here. Your first instinct might to be scream like, “Run for your life, lady. But not forget that the speaker feels with death. She calmly faced the whole moment so far. She enjoys death. The word “we paused” means another stop in the poem. This stop and their whole journey. The word ‘house’ represents the place of burial. The roof of the house is hardly visible. It is undoubtedly her grave.

In sixth stanza, this happened centuries ago. The poetess describes situation after death in this stanza while lying in her grave. The poetess says that this is her final destination and she enters spirituality. The poem now telling a recent memory but actually this is happened a long time ago. The speaker is dead. The final stanza is full of surprising for readers to read it. She realized that death is more charming and peaceful. She also explains that horses pull her carriage to spiritual world from morality to immorality. The poem ends in irresolution. Her destination is eternity.

Emily Dickinson use several literary devices in her poem because I could not stop for death. These devices include alliteration, allusion, personification and enjambment. Alliteration occurs when words begin with same sound, used in succession, or appear close together. The alliteration used in this poem are “labor” and “leisure” in the second stanza and “school” and “strove” in third stanza. Personification occurs when poet used use un human things or creatures with human characteristics. In this poem in the first stanza death is very clearly personified. An allusion is an implied or indirect reference to a person, thing or event. Allusion is not clearly mentioned in the lines of poem. Another technique used in the lines of this poem is enjambment. Enjambment occurs when a line is cut off before its stopping point. For instance, transition between three and four line of first stanza. In first stanza, the poetess represents human race, she says that she is too busy in thinking about death.


The author of the poem is “Emily Dickinson”. In the summary of the poem we will discuss various aspects of the poem The speaker is too busy to approach death. The poetess talks about the death and gentle nature of it approach. Death comes in form of gentleman. She present death as a pilot leading the human souls. In this poem the poetess says that I could not stop for death. I climbed in his carriage, which held just the two of us, so instead he comes to get me. It is a journey from left to death, from time to timelessness, from the physical to the spiritual. We drove unhurriedly. I had left all my work in order to be respectful of his gentlemanly nature. We went by a school, where children played during their recess time. We passed fields of crops and the sun as it set in the sky.

We did not pass the sun, it passed us. I was cold to, as I was wearing only a lightweight scarf and thin gown. Our next stop during arrival was at what looked like a house. It was partly buried in the ground. The ceiling was in the ground and I could just see the roof. That day centuries have passed. Death is seen not at the end, but as the beginning of immortality. she is ready to die dauntlessly. She gives death human traits through the poem. On that day I realized that death’s horses were headed in the direction of eternity. The speaker realizes it has been centuries her death and it feels to her like yesterday she was death. The treatment of death as an aesthetic experience. She is not afraid of death. She is sure of the reward of eternity. A new life would begin after death and she is ever “ready to go”.

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Conclusion of Poem

This poem deals with the heavy objects such as time, death and eternity. These are very heavy objects but Dickinson deals them in a simple and easy manner so the idea of the poem is clearly visible to the reader. Death arrives to her home to take speaker out for a carriage ride. In this poem the death is personified as a gentle man. Death is a polite man. The true nature of death causes a realization in speaker about eternity. The poem describes that death is unwelcomed throughout nature. She did not have choice to select when she wanted to die. The speaker lives a busy life. She is unable to stop for death. Death are accompanied by immorality. Death is usually described as a negative way but in this poem Emily describes death as a comforting and polite man. She described that death is a part of life and describe death as a positive character.

Works Cited

  1. Dickinson, E. (1955). Poems of Emily Dickinson. (R. W. Franklin, Ed.). The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
  2. Dickinson, E. (1981). Because I could not stop for death. In T. H. Johnson (Ed.), The complete poems of Emily Dickinson (p. 300). Little, Brown and Company.
  3. Dickinson, E. (1999). The Letters of Emily Dickinson (Vol. 1). (T. H. Johnson, Ed.). Belknap Press.
  4. Dickinson, E. (2000). Emily Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries. (H. Bloom, Ed.). Chelsea House Publishers.
  5. Gelpi, A. (1985). Emily Dickinson: The boundaries of emily dickinson. In J. Walker, R. Davis, & A. Johnson (Eds.), On Emily Dickinson: The Best from American Literature (pp. 27-38). Duke University Press.
  6. Mudge, J. (2009). Emily Dickinson: A Book of Essays. Oxford University Press.
  7. Nesteruk, P. (2013). Because I could not stop for death: An analysis of Emily Dickinson’s style. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Research, 2(2), 59-68.
  8. Piper, A. (2008). The Poetic Achievement of Emily Dickinson. Edinburgh University Press.
  9. Sewall, R. B. (1974). The Life of Emily Dickinson. Harvard University Press.
  10. Wolff, C. (1986). Emily Dickinson. Vintage Books.
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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Analysis of ‘Because I Could Not Stop For Death’. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 22, 2024, from
“Analysis of ‘Because I Could Not Stop For Death’.” GradesFixer, 30 Aug. 2022,
Analysis of ‘Because I Could Not Stop For Death’. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Feb. 2024].
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