Dickinson uses a variety of literary tools to compose her view of death in this poem, because each tool emphasizes the cryptic message hidden beneath it. Most writers of Dickinson’s time wrote using a large amount of literary tools to add depth to their poems. In her poem Because I Could Not Stop for Death, Dickinson depicts death as an entity or man who has come to offer the speaker a ride through life then death. Through Dickinson’s style of text, distinctive symbolism, and successful utilization of hard to understand concepts, she makes a poem that is difficult to decipher.
The way that the poem is written passes on her message to the reader through coherent and smooth transitioning between stanzas. The poem is composed of five sets of five statements. The manner by which every stanza is written in a quatrain gives the poem solidarity and makes it simple to take in. Dickinson starts death’s adventure with a slow, gradual, forward development, which can be viewed when she states, “We slowly drove, He knew no haste” The third quatrain accelerates as the symbolized death and immortality bring the speaker up to the youngsters playing, the setting sun and the fields of grain. The poem seems to get faster as life gradually passes by, just as life feels to get faster as one gets older. An example by which Dickinson uses effective form is when she closes the poem with a dash. Perhaps the dash appears to demonstrate that the poem goes on forever, just like time is infinite.
Dickinson effectively uses imagery to assist the reader with understanding her point. One could say the carriage is emblematic of a funeral wagon and carries her inside of it, and she could be symbolized as humankind, and the person guiding her could be symbolized as death. The characters make the third “person” of the carriage, immortality. The carriage ride could likewise be representative of time, since, similar to time, it moves slowly. The speaker looks outside of the carriage and sees youngsters playing games together in a ring, which could be symbolizing her thinking back on her childhood. Next, she notices fields of grain, which could symbolize her thinking back on her adult years. The grain could be seen as an image of the lifeless and still parts of life. And finally, she sees the setting sun pass the carriage, which symbolizes maturity or demise by implying the sun is setting on life. Each image provides a cryptic analogy for the stages of life.
Dickinson uses figurative dialect to support passing on shrouded messages to the reader. Similar sounding word usage is utilized a few times all through the poem. Alliteration is visible in lines 9 onto 12:
We passed the School, where children strove
At Recess in the Ring
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain
We passed the Setting Sun
This alliteration supports the idea of never ending time as she says, “We passed” three separate times. The speaker in the poem is noticing everything that she has been through in life, giving the reader the feeling of watching her life pass by. This stanza gives us an image of Dickinson riding in a carriage looking outside at all the things she has once seen, and a feeling of nostalgia washing over her like she knows she won’t see them again. Dickinson’s utilization of figurative dialect and repetition allows the reader to get a deeper understanding of the poem.
Another special writing component that Dickinson utilizes in the poem is tone. It is interesting noticing her tone concerning death itself contrasts greatly in relation to her contemporaries. The general population of Dickinson’s time saw death as being a touchy and dark subject to approach and speak of. Most in the 1800s saw the subject as being morbid and too dark to dwell over. But Dickinson passes off death to be a man who is showing her out for a peaceful time in a carriage. The symbolism in the poem aids the formation of a more charming tone. Dickinson portrays youngsters playing, which gives it a more friendly temperament. Another manner by which Dickinson makes death a more pleasant subject for the reader is in the fifth quatrain as she adds comparison between the grave to a house. Through line 17, she says, “We paused before a House”, this provides the reader with the mental picture of a young woman being dropped off at her home by a man. Dickinson proceeds to write in line 18, “A Swelling of the Ground” the reader can then realize that it is actually a grave that she is being taken to. Her grave is likewise depicted as a comfortable house in lines 19 and 20 as she states, “The Rooftop was scarcely visible” It’s almost as if she is knowingly accepting her death without fear.
Each literary device used in this poem propels the reader to seek what Dickinson is implying in each stanza and perhaps how it relates to her personality and life. Because of her distinct use of language and unique style of writing one can notice from this poem alone Dickinson’s personality and how she stood out from other artists of her time.