Emily Dicksinson Essay, Research Paper
A Unique Personification – Emily Dickinson, Poem #712
For generations children have been taught to see Death as the Grim Reaper. A figure clothed in dark robes holding a gleaming scythe in one hand and beckoning with the alabaster bone of another, Death has become something to be universally feared. Perhaps that is why Emily Dickinson?s poem #712 (Because I Could Not Stop for Death) is so unique and so touching. Although a constant theme of her work, this poem stands out as the use of a variety of poetic, and especially prosodic devices serve to portray Death in an entirely new, more genteel, light.
The first and most striking aspect of Dickinson?s work is her personification of death as a gentleman. Lines one and two set the tone for the entire poem, ?Because I could not stop for Death – / He kindly stopped for me.? Her succinct diction in that statement, and more particularly, the use of the word ?kindly?, immediately conveys the image of Death she is seeing. This conceit is furthered by the later statement that ?He knew no haste? (stanza 2, line 1), a direct contradiction of the typical and decisive cutting of the strings of fate, or of the sudden whisking away that is a more commonplace description of Death coming to call. Instead, without any sense of urgency, she is given the chance to put her affairs in order because of his ?Civility,? (stanza 2, line 4). With this image solidified in the minds of her readers? Dickinson?s use of other devices in order to continue to convey her theme and tone become more apparent and more striking.
The meter and rhyme throughout the piece are an example of her manipulation of prosodic devices in order to enhance the tone of the writing and bring out the intended theme. Instead of the obvious and elementary use of perfect end rhyme, slant rhyme is used. In doing so, the words create a soft euphonious cadence that perpetuates her courteous vision of Death. Alliteration also helps develop this harmonious sound. The third and forth stanzas of the poem are ripe with examples of this. By coupling words near to each other such as ?school? and ?strove?, ??ripe? and ?ring?, ?Gossamer? and ?Gown? the words take on a smooth quality. The repetition of the ?s? sound also adds a soothing, musical quality to the poem. Again, the euphony substantiates Dickinson?s proper and polite image as the theme unravels; the cadence that is the result of this manipulation slowly guides the reader along, much as Death is doing in the poem.
Additionally, Dickinson alternates between longer complex lines and short statements. Whereas other authors have used short staccato sentences to convey the uncaring abrupt nature of Death, Dickinson, in her quest to create another version evokes a calming and natural rhyme. These variations combine to produce a pleasing, almost childlike melody akin to a nursery rhyme that refuses to jar the senses.
Throughout the poem ?Because I Could Not Stop for Death? Emily Dickinson?s use of the prosodic devices of diction, rhyme and rhythm, alliteration, and repetition serve to illuminate Dickinson?s vision of Death. Instead of bringing her life to a screeching halt, Dickinson is willing drawn into the carriage ride that is her life. As she makes the inevitable journey towards the end that is death, and the poem comes to a close, Dickinson finally realizes that she is headed toward ?Eternity? and she is accepting. In the arms of this Death she is ready to face what may lie ahead.