Analysis of Her Poetry
(Because I Could Not Stop For Death –)
May 5, 1997
Emily Dickinson came into life with little fanfare but her propensity for emotional clarity through written word has left an indelible impression upon the world. It was her unique style of writing that transcended the physical boundaries of the human mind and gives readers reason for pause. Her talent was that of wielding words into ontologically driven imagery that seeps into the reader’s soul and provides little room for self-doubt of one’s route through life, direction of soul, and post-mortem existence.
“Because I could not stop for Death-/He kindly stopped for me-“accentuates the reality of mortal beings and our passenger status on road through life. At some point within her life, Emily became cognizant of her mortality as supported by stanza 1, line 1. As mere mortals, there’s a metaphysically directed itinerary that we cannot deviate from. It is as though death selects us at birth and escorts our poor souls through the stages of our life without haste, “We slowly drove-He knew no haste.” Death showcases our stages of life as reflected in stanza 3, line 1-4: “We passed the School, where Children strove/At Recess-in the Ring–/We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain–/We passed the Setting Sun-“, such powerful imagery allows the human mind to grasp the natural process of aging, including death through symbolism derived from celestial works and agriculture (Setting Sun – old age/Grazing Grain – maturity). Stanza four realizes the frailty of her existence and stanza five allows for the reader to imagine her perception of the grave.
As a student of psychology I could not help but see a psycho linguistic slant concerning stanza five. Emily was childless and this stanza could be viewed as her regret. Dream analysis dictates a house as being the vessel of woman. Emily Dickinson’s choice of words in the next line (swelling) promotes the idea of gestation of nature (woman and nature are the only creators of life). Line 3 allows the reader to imagine that the ‘Roof’ could be one’s view or grasp of heaven. And the line, “The Cornice-in the Ground-“, may signify her belief that her life was incomplete. A cornice crowns a wall, but her lay in the ‘Ground’ (used in this context, Ground is where death interns our bodies). Simply stated, her love of nature and her belief that nature cares for its children diametrically opposes her status as a woman without children.
After reviewing many of Emily Dickinson’s works, it’s very clear that she was practically hyper-cognizant of her environment. Fortunately, her social status allowed her the time and opportunity to express her philosophical [and indeed, mystical] beliefs through written poetry. Thought by many to be a recluse without earnest life, Emily Dickinson lived a life as few will ever experience for she perceived the other-world that we all mostly cannot fathom but will one day meet.