Custom papers academic service


An overview of emily dicksinsons because i could not stop for death

In the poem under consideration, however, the house of death so lightly sketched is not her destination. An eminent critic, after praising this as a remarkably beautiful poem, complains that it breaks down at this point because it goes beyond the 'Limits of Judgment'; in so far as it attempts to experience death and express the nature of posthumous beatitude, he says, it is 'fraudulent.

The poem does not in the least strive after the incomprehensible.

  • Or is this question too literal-minded?
  • Only snatches of memory are left and a little narrative in stanza three representing life and also death;
  • The poem is informed ironically with theology; it is the inexorable law of time's direction that the little narrative uncovers;
  • The love-death symbolism, however, re-emerges with new implications in the now restored fourth stanza, probably omitted by previous editors because they were baffled by its meaning;
  • Time speeds, in part because of the insistent echo, in the short lines, of the verb "passed" as the carriage travels through realms of living--human, animated nature, and nature becoming passive--the "setting sun," which seems even more passive in contrast with the striving children;
  • American Poets on a Favorite Poem.

It deals with the daily realization of the imminence of death, offset by man's yearning for immortality. These are intensely felt, but only as ideas, as the abstractions of time and eternity, not as something experienced. Being essentially inexpressible, they are rendered as metaphors.

The idea of achieving immortality by a ride in the carriage of death is confronted by the concrete fact of physical disintegration as she pauses before a 'Swelling in the Ground.

  • Critics today, it often seems, are guilty of similar dismantlings, and for the same reasons;
  • It also becomes damp and cold "dew grew quivering and chill" , in contrast to the warmth of the preceding stanza.

In projecting the last sensations of consciousness as the world fades out, she has employed progressively fewer visible objects until with fine dramatic skill she limits herself at the end to a single one, the 'Horses Heads,' recalled in a flash of memory as that on which her eyes had been fixed throughout the journey.

These bring to mind the 'Carriage' of the opening stanza, and Death, who has receded as a person, is now by implication back in the driver's seat. All of this poetically elapsed time 'Feels shorter than the Day,' the day of death brought to an end by the setting sun of the third stanza, when she first guessed the direction in which these apocalyptic horses were headed.

The last word may be 'Eternity' but it is strictly limited by the directional preposition 'toward. Its theme is a Christian one, yet unsupported by any of the customary rituals and without any final statement of Christian faith. The resolution is not mystical but dramatic.

Read in this way the poem is flawless to the last detail, each image precise and discrete even while it is unified in the central motif of the last journey.

Yet another level of meaning has suggested itself faintly an overview of emily dicksinsons because i could not stop for death two critics. One has described the driver as 'amorous but genteel'; the other has noted 'the subtly interfused erotic motive,' love having frequently been an idea linked with death for the romantic poets. But even in the well-known opening lines of the poem there are suggestive hints for anyone who remembers that the carriage drive was a standard mode of courtship a century ago.

In the period of her normal social life, when Emily Dickinson took part ill those occasions that give youthful love its chance, she frequently went on drives with young gentlemen. Some ten years before the date of this poem, for example, she wrote to her brother: The love-death symbolism, however, re-emerges with new implications in the now restored fourth stanza, probably omitted by previous editors because they were baffled by its meaning: It is instead a bridal dress, but of a very special sort.

This brings to mind her cryptic poem on the spider whose web was his 'Strategy of Immortality. He is the envoy taking her on this curiously premature wedding journey to the heavenly altar where she will be married to God.

The whole idea of the Bride-of-the-Lamb is admittedly only latent in the text of this poem, but in view of the body of her writings it seems admissible to suggest it as another metaphor for an overview of emily dicksinsons because i could not stop for death extension of meanings. In it all the traditional modes are subdued so they can, be assimilated to her purposes.

For her theme there, as a final reading of its meaning will suggest, is not necessarily death or immortality in the literal sense of those terms. There are many ways of dying, as she once said: In her vocabulary 'immortal' is a value that can also attach to living this side of the grave: But in another sense she had simply triumphed over them, passing beyond earthly trammels.

Finally, this makes the most satisfactory reading of her reversible image of motion and stasis during the journey, passing the setting sun and being passed by it. For though in her withdrawal the events of the external world by-passed her, in the poetic life made possible by it she escaped the limitations of the mortal calendar. She was borne confidently, by her winged horse, 'toward Eternity' in the immortality of her poems. Stairway of Surprise New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

But we ought not insist that the poem's interpretation pivot on the importance of this word. For we ignore its own struggle with extraordinary claims if we insist too quickly on its adherence to traditional limits. Thus the first line, like any idiosyncratic representation of the world, must come to grips with the tyranny of more general meanings, not the least of which can be read in the inviolable stand of the universe, every bit as willful as the isolate self.

In another respect, we must see the first line not only as willful had not time for but also as the admission of a disabling fact could not. The second line responds to the doubleness of conception. What, in other words, in one context is deference, in another is coercion, and since the poem balances tonally between these extremes it is important to note the dexterity with which they are compacted in the first two lines.

There is, of course, further sense in which death stops for the speaker, and that is in the fusion I alluded to earlier between interior and exterior senses of time, so that the consequence of the meeting in the carriage is the death of otherness. The poem presumes to rid death of its otherness, to familiarize it, literally to adopt its perspective and in so doing to effect a synthesis between self and other, internal time and the faster, more relentless beat of the world.

Using more traditional terms to describe the union, Allen Tate speaks of the poem's "subtly interfused erotic motive, which the idea of death has presented to most romantic poets, love being a symbol interchangeable with death.

Death's heralding phenomenon, the loss of self, would be almost welcomed if self at this point could be magically fused with other.

Indeed the trinity of death, self, immortality, however ironic a parody of the holy paradigm, at least promises a conventional fulfillment of the idea that the body's end coincides with the soul's everlasting life. But, as in "Our journey had advanced," death so frequently conceptualized as identical with eternity here suffers a radical displacement from it.

While both poems suggest a discrepancy between eternity and death, the former poem hedges on the question of where the speaker stands with respect to that discrepancy, at its conclusion seeming to locate her safely in front of or "before" death. Along these revisionary lines, the ride to death that we might have supposed to take place through territory unknown, we discover in stanza three to reveal commonplace sights but now fused with spectacle.

Perhaps what is extraordinary here is the elasticity of reference, how imposingly on the figural scale the images can weigh while, at the same time, never abandoning any of their quite literal specificity.

This referential flexibility or fusion of literal and figural meanings is potential in the suggestive connotations of the verb "strove," which is a metaphor in the context of the playground that is, in its literal context and a mere descriptive verb in the context of the implied larger world that is, in its figural context.

For at least as the third stanza conceives of it, the journey toward eternity is a series of successive and, in the case of the grain, displaced visions giving way finally to blankness. But just as after the first two stanzas, we are again rescued in the fourth from any settled conception of this journey.

As we were initially not to think of the journey taking place out of the world and hence with the children we are brought back to itthe end of the third stanza having again moved us to the world's edge, we are redeemed from falling over it by the speaker's correction: Thus while the poem gives the illusion of a one-directional movement, albeit a halting one, we discover upon closer scrutiny that the movements are multiple and, as in "I heard a Fly buzz when I died," constitutive of flux, back and forth over the boundary from life to death.

Implications in the poem, like the more explicit assertions, are contradictory and reflexive, circling back to underline the very premises they seem a moment ago to have denied. Given such ambiguity, we are constantly in an overview of emily dicksinsons because i could not stop for death quandary about how to place the journey that, at anyone point, undermines the very certainty of conception it has previously established.

  • The disparity between the somewhat belabored allegory and the obvious meaning creates a sense of intense dramatic irony;
  • The drive symbolizes her leaving life.

The poem that has thus far played havoc with our efforts to fix its journey in any conventional time or space, on this side of death or the other, concludes with an announcement about the origins of its speech, now explicitly equivocal: For one might observe that for all the apparent movement here, there are no real progressions in the poem at all. For the predominant sense of this journey is not simply its endlessness; it is also the curious back and forth sweep of its images conveying, as they do, the perpetual return to what has been perpetually taken leave of.

Thus the utterance is not quite allegory because it is not strongly iconographic its figures do not have a one-to-one correspondence with a representational baseand at the same time, these figures are sufficiently rigid to preclude the freeing up of associations that is characteristic of the symbol. We recall Coleridge's distinction between a symbolic and an allegorical structure. A symbol presupposes a unity with its object.

It denies the separateness between subject and object by creating a synecdochic relationship between itself and the totality of what it represents; like the relationship between figure and thing figured discussed in the first part of this chapter, it is always part of that totality. Allegory, on the other hand, is a sign that refers to a specific meaning from which it continually remains detached. Through its abstract embodiment, the allegorical form makes the distance between itself and its original meaning clearly manifest.

It accentuates the absolute cleavage between subject and object. Since the speaker in "Because I could not stop for Death" balances between the boast of knowledge and the confession of ignorance, between a oneness with death and an inescapable difference from it, we may regard the poem as a partial allegory. The inability to know eternity, the failure to be at one with it, is, we might say, what the allegory of "Because I could not stop for Death" makes manifest.

The ride with death, though it espouses to reveal a future that is past, in fact casts both past and future in the indeterminate present of the last stanza.

Bernhard Frank: On 712 ("Because I could not stop for Death")

Unable to arrive at a fixed conception, it must rest on the bravado and it implicitly knows this of its initial claim. Thus death is not really civilized; the boundary between otherness and self, life and death, is crossed, but only in presumption, and we might regard this fact as the real confession of disappointment in the poem's last stanza. Dickinson and the Limits of Genre. Jane Donahue Eberwein Dickinson's most famous poem spoken from beyond the grave confronts precisely this problem: Her opening words echo some of Dickinson's own habitual usages but present a contradictory value system adapted to worldly achievements.

Dickinson, too, proclaimed herself too busy in her self-descriptive July 1862 letter to Higginson and in a letter to Mrs. Holland that Johnson and Ward place conjecturally at the same time on the basis of obvious verbal echoes L 268; 269. To Higginson she wrote: Holland, "Perhaps you laugh at me! Perhaps the whole United States are laughing at me too!

I can't stop for that!

My business is to love. What the poet could not stop for was circuit judgments. Circumference, from the perspective of the circuit world, was death and the cessation of industry, although there might be a different life beyond it.

Carol Frost: On 712 ("Because I could not stop for Death")

The speaker of this poem, however, is too busy with ordinary duties to stop for Death, who naturally stops her instead. She is less like Emily Dickinson than like that whirlwind of domestic industriousness, Lavinia, whom her sister once characterized as a "standard for superhuman effort erroneously applied" L 254.

Caught up in the circuit world of busyness, the speaker mistakes Death for a human suitor; her imagination suggests no more awesome possibility. Two persons, in fact, have come for her, Death and Immortality, though her limited perception leads her to ignore the higher-ranking chaperon. In fact, she pays little attention even to her principal escort, being occupied instead with peering out the carriage window at the familiar circuit world.

Rather than attending to mysteries, this speaker focuses only on the familiar until a novel perspective on the sunset jolts her into awareness of her own transitional state. Rather than making friends with Immortality, she concentrates on mortality. The consequence of her distorted values is that the speaker winds up with eternity as an inadequate substitute for either: To think that we must forever live and never cease to be.

It seems as if Death which all so dread because it launches us upon an unknown world would be a relief to so endless a state of existense" L 10. Indeed, Death does not launch the persona of this poem into another world Immortality would have to be enlisted for that, rather than sitting ignored in the back seat of the carriage in which she and Death will eventually ride off together after abandoning the speaker. Instead Death leaves his date buried within the margin of the circuit, in a "House" that she can maintain like one of those "Alabaster Chambers" P 216 in which numb corpses lie but which are designed and built of elegant materials still gratifying to the circuit-locked mentality.

A quester for circumference would greet Death more enthusiastically, and would both value and cultivate Death's ties to Immortality. For such a quester, the destination of the journey might prove more wondrous. Cynthia Griffin Wolff The speaker is a beautiful woman already dead!

Irrefutable "Immortality" resides in the work of art itself, the creation of an empowered woman poet that continues to captivate readers more than one hundred years after her death.