EmilyDickinson is a poet of the 18th Century with her works being focusedon the nature of immortality and death. She writes, “Because I could not stopfor Death” as well as “After great pain, a formal feeling comes” around thetheme of death to personify the acceptance of a tragedy. There is an evidentintensity in the work of Dickinson that echo her curiosity and enthusiasm ofdeath and the mortal experience. In Emily Dickinson’s works, she usesRomanticism and imagery to transforms the concept of inevitable death frombeing a fearsome experience to a calm and enduring experience that can take aperson to pleasant eternity.
This paper will focus on the ways Dickinson usesimagery of internal emotions, nature, inanimate objects and animal to personifythe acceptance of death.Dickinson uses internal emotions aspectof imagery to give death a feeling of comfort. “Because I could not stop forDeath” is a poem of a women who foresees everlasting life and has found thatlife in death. Dickinson ironically relates death to peace in the poem whereonly after her death; she is able to find tranquility. Dickinson represents thewoman’s’ death by using the imagery of a setting sun as she says: “We passedthe setting sun”, just as if the day comes to and end with the setting sun, sodoes her life.
The poem indicates how the woman was comfortable with death andthe Afterlife representing acceptance of death. Her comfort with death can berecognized with the trust the character has with death as she gave up her”labors and leisure” insinuating her giving up work and joys of life toaccept death (Ashraf, 2015). Acceptance has been intensified with anexpectation that there will be pleasure and reward from enduring the deathexperience.
The end of “Because I could not stop for Death” directly conveys tothis acceptance when the journey concludes with eternity of peace. Death has alsobeen seen as a pleasant image with the referral to it being in the form of agentleman suitor, who is taking the woman on a ride in his horse-drawncarriage. Dickinson aims to alter the stereotypical view of death to a passivegentle character that is kind and not a cruel concept simply taking life awayfrom an individual (Ottlinger, 2012, p. 49-50). Furthermore, Dickinson ends thepoem with: “I first surmised the Horses’ Heads, Were toward Eternity”,signifying that she came to realization that she was heading into the directionof eternity. Eternity to her does not mean the end but the beginning of thelife after and thereby allowing her to effortlessly accept her death. Particularword choice such as referring to death waiting ‘kindly’ shows the pleasantimage Dickinson has created for death in her poems. Moreover, the ironic useof “immortality” in a poem focused ofthe mortal death experience can denote that Dickinson does not see death as theend but just a stepping-stone into an eternal Afterlife.
Dickinson bringspositive aspects to death to romanticize death by referencing the experience toa journey and a path to be discovered leading towards salvation. In “Because I could not stop for Death”, thelast stanza reflect on Dickinson’s internal emotion where she creates a linkbetween immortality and eternity to signify that one is not mortal and evendeath can be immortal by implying the life after death. Similar to the gentleman suitor in “BecauseI could not stop for Death”, the personification of death to a pleasant can beseen in “I heard a Fly buzz– when I died” with death being brought on by a King epitomizing a godly figurethat has come to take the life away.
The comfort of death can also be detectedin aspects of the journey in “Because I could not stop for Death” whererealistic expectations would insinuate a scary journey from the pain of deathto the grave or some supernatural dimension. However, Dickinson describes thejourney to be an easy one where they simply pass schoolyards and grain fields.The speed on travel can also represent comfort as the narrator shapes thejourney to be going at a relaxed pace where “We slowly drove – He knew no haste”.Despite how desolate death can actually be, Dickinson maintains a tone ofoptimism in her references of death as seen “After Great Pain A Formal FeelingComes” where even though death has caused pain, by letting go she has achieveda sense of tranquility. This gives depth to the Romanticism and internal emotionsimagery in Dickinson poems that uphold a tone of positivity when discussing thegrim aspects of life such as death and lose of a loved one. Anothercharacteristic of internal emotions is signified in the celebration of simplelife, which Dickinson portrays in “Because I could not stop for Death” byunfolding the three stages of the human life beginning with childhood seenthrough the children playing at the followed by the prime of life beingexemplified by the fertile ‘Gazing Grain’ to suggest cultivating and work anindividual does to earn a living leading to our decline represented by thesetting sun (Alqaryouti & Sadeq, 2017).
In “I heard a Fly buzz – when Idied”, Dickinson uses imagery of internal emotions to describe the eventswhilst in her new form after death where relatives who passed before her areseen to tearless eyes due to the peace of mind they have achieved after death. Thetone reflected in the works of “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died” is identifiedto be calm and even flat as Dickinson comes to peace with the concept of deathand accepts it as a natural part of life. A sense of calmness can mirror theinternal emotions of Dickinson’s’ acceptance of death and personification ofdeath to bring tranquility. The coherent serene tone depicted by Dickinson alsoreflects on her internal emotion that the encounter with death ispainless. Poems, ” Because I could not stop for Death”and “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died” both showcase the calm and soft tonewith the word choice such as “We slowly drove – He knew no haste”describes the disposition in the first poem; similarly the subsequent refers to”the Stillness in the Room.
” Poems by Emily Dickinson use imageryof the supernatural combined with elements of nature to depict the truecharacteristics of Romanticism to personify the concept of death. Firstly, thepersonification of Death by creating a supernatural personality of it to be anactual being coming to her illustrates the imaginative literacy Dickinsonstands for. In “Because I could not stop for Death”, Dickinson also uses heavysymbolism of nature; ” We passed the fields of glazing sun, We passed thesetting sun, The dews drew quivering and chill” to epitomize death in aromantic way.
Her use of word choice with the nature facets also creates asensory experience with the reference of “dews” to represent how death couldmake the body grow cold building on the romanticism of the poem. Another aspectof nature is seen in “After Great Pain A Formal Feeling Comes”; Dickinson usesvivid imagery to symbolize the literal and figurative coldness that accompaniesdeath. She elicits emotions in the reader using imagery in relation to thenature with reference to the snow. Dickinson also uses references to nature in”I heard a Fly buzz – when I died” with a simile to compare the air in the roomwith the air amidst a storm. A literal image is created where the air is wetand heavy in reference to the tears filling a room when a loved one dies.
Thereis a certain stillness in the air to create a peaceful atmosphere that isn’tterrifying but serene and calm like after rain therefore personifying death. In”Success is counted sweetest” there is relationship created between success andnectar but instead of using the sweet taste of nectar as a reference, Dickinsonapplies synesthesia with the word choice ‘comprehend’ thereby using the brainto understand the sweetness of nectar and success as well. This relationship isa parallelism of Dickinson’s’ views that death and peacefulness can go togetherbased on how we comprehend the notion. Similarly in the same poem shearticulates, “Water is taught by thirst” which signifies realization of theimportance of water by deprivation therefore the can be derived to howdeprivation of life can lead to serenity instead of anguish. Evidence of animal imagery can be foundin “A narrow Fellow in the Grass” where Dickinson talks about the encounterwith a snake in a grass field using vivid imagery such as the “Boggy Acre ” and”A Floor too cool for Corn”.
The snake being a deadly predator is personifiedas a human figure by being called a ‘fellow’ who ‘rides’ thereby romanticizingthe experience with the snake in order to eliminate the fear and horror ofdeath. “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died” incorporates a fly into the deathexperience, as one of the distinct things heard during the moment of death isthe buzz of the fly. Firstly, Dickinson uses onomatopoeia where a soundimitated the sound of the fly to cut the quiet in the room allowing readers touse their senses to visualize the happening scenario. Dickinson describes thebuzz of the fly to be “Blue – uncertain – stumbling” giving thereaders a detailed image to truly experience the after death occurrence. Secondly,the after death situation is being exemplified by the fly symbolized torepresent decomposition where flies end up on dead bodies to complete theputrefaction process. Even with this after death experience and decompositionbeing ghastly is being associated to a simple buzz and a harmless fly. Deathalso being a very strong experience being represented by a simple fly can showhow Dickinson does not perceive death to be intimidating and personifies it asa peaceful experience. The fly being a negative part of the after deathexperience has been given a lively persona where as long as the vibrant buzzingof the fly is heard; she knows she is alive.
Gradually progressing into thepoem as the fly buzz diminishes, the life in her diminishes thereby the disturbing, noise and vibrant movements of the fly are areassurance to the speaker that she is alive. Furthermore the inclusion of thefly into the experience creates a symbolism that death is as natural as thebuzzing of a fly.As seen in ” After Great Pain A FormalFeeling Comes”, Dickinson Dickinson refers to the Quartz grave growing out ofthe ground as one dies reflect on life after death creating a supernaturalpersona characterizing the imagery of inanimate in her poems.
Dickinson alsometaphorically uses windows to describe the speaker’s eyes in “I heard a Flybuzz – when I died” where she uses the concept that the eyes are the windows ofthe soul. This biblical reference brings a spiritual aspect to the poem andthereby adding a certain calamity to the experience of death. Similarly, thedescription of the tombstone in “Because I could not stop for Death,” Dickinsonwrites, “We paused before a House that seemed – A Swelling of the Ground- TheRoof was scarcely visible- The Cornice-in the Ground” creating powerful imageryto illustrate the tombstone in a vivid manner allowing reader to actuallyimagine the scene. Furthermore, the house in the poem “Because I could not stopfor Death” can symbolize comfort with death where the house represents a grave.Instead of creating a horrific and depressing image of death leading to thegrave, Dickinson views her grave as a house.
A home embodies safety andhappiness thereby creating a relationship between the home and a grave makesthe grave a place of contentment. Another prominent object in the poem is thecarriage around which Dickinson creates imagery using a metaphor. The carriageis a metaphor for the way in which we make our final passage to death. Thecarriage carries the women and death to represent a mode of transportation tothe Afterlife. In conclusion with poems such as”Because I could not stop for Death”, “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died”,”Success is counted sweetest”, “After Great Pain A Formal Feeling Comes” and “Anarrow Fellow in the Grass”; Dickinson breaks the perception of a distressingdeath experience to a peaceful experience that takes human from life to theAfterlife when there is serenity. Using literary technique of imagery andshadowing aspects of romanticism, she has signified the various aspects of thedeath occurrence to be perceived with more calmness. Dickinson has excelledthis personification of death by using imagery of internal emotions of comfortand acceptance to take the readers on a journey from death to Afterlife.
Moreover, nature has been a dominant occurrence in Dickinson’s’ work to createvivid images for the readers. The personification of inanimate objects hasshown death to be enduring and safe. Finally, inclusion of animal imagery suchas the snake and fly in her poems to represent death has given character anddepth to the concept.