"Because I Could Not Stop for Death" by Emily Dickinson, is a poem filled with symbolism, deep meaning, and rich language. Dickinson uses various literary elements to convey emotion as she takes readers through the narrator’s journey. Dickinson has influenced many writers since her poems were published, so it is important that students notice the different themes, symbols, and vocabulary she uses. Below are several activities to help students understand each part of the poem, grasp overarching qualities, and make a meaningful "Because I Could Not Stop for Death" analysis.
Because I could not stop for Death TPCASTT - Emily Dickenson
T - TITLE
P - PARAPHRASE
C - CONNOTATION
A - ATTITUDE/TONE
S - SHIFT
T - TITLE
T - THEME
The title, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, might imply that the narrator cheated death in some way.
The poem begins by personifying death as a person in a carriage, who picks up the narrator as a passenger. As they ride around peacefully, they see many things: children playing, fields of grain, and finally the headstone of the narrator. Here, she realizes that it has been centuries since she died. However, it only felt like a few hours.
Going beyond the literal meaning, Dickinson almost seems content with death.
Using words like “kindly”, “leisure”, “passed”, “riding”, “slowly”, and “civility” suggests an attitude of comfort and peace.
A shift occurs in stanza six, in the last four lines. “Since then - ‘tis Centuries – and yet/ Feels shorter than the Day/ I first surmised the Horses’ Heads/ Were toward Eternity.” The previous attitude that seemed peaceful changes to an enlightenment that is startling. The speaker comes to the realization that the ride has been centuries and not hours.
After reading the poem, my interpretation of the title was incorrect. The speaker was unable to cheat death. No matter what, when it is your time, it will come unexpectedly. No one is prepared, just as the speaker was not prepared.
The theme that 'Death is Eternity' is evident as the speaker realizes how far death goes as there is no concept of time.