Because I Could Not Stop for Death is one of the most illustrious poems by Emily Dickinson composed at around 1863. Several of Emily Dickinson's poems are about death, an idea she enjoyed exploring. In this particular poem, a female narrator tells a story about her encounter with death and taken for a carriage ride. Similarly, the short poem Reapers, by Jean Toomer, represents the idea of skirmishes associated with the African-American experience. Industrialization is served as death for the people where people are drained of their humanity. Notably, both Because I Could Not Stop for Death and Reapers present the nature of death in a sense to present it as a journey. This paper will analyze how the idea of death is illustrated in both poems.
With regard to the nature of death in Because I Could Not Stop for Death, a journey towards death is presented. Throughout the poem, the poet applies abstractions such as eternity, immortality, and mortality to illustrate the nature of death. In the opening two lines of Because I Could Not Stop for Death, death is embodied as a carriage driver who stops for someone that could not stop for him (Dickinson 1-2). Although the narrator herself could not stop for death, death shows every intent to stop for her. Here, death is presented as "kindly," which characterizes it as a journey with a certain sense of comfort and the acceptance of dying despite the often perception that it is grim. Rather than presenting it as sudden or cruel, the first stanza of the poem presents it as a peaceful, lengthy, and meandering, which brings about the idea of immortality. As the second stanza of the poem begins with "slowly drove, and he knew no haste" (Dickinson 5), this serves to develop the idea of death's kindness and explain more about death. Also, in the fourth line, "For his civility," signifies how polite the carriage driver is (Dickinson 8). Through the different phrases in the first and second stanza, they portray the narrator's captivation of the driver that she forgets about everything she was doing before he stopped for her.
Further, in the third stanza, death is presented as a passage through the presentation of children in school, fields of gazing grain, and the setting sun (Dickinson 9-12). These materials signify the idea of death in the poem by showing experiences of nature that an individual in death has departed from. With a more in-depth view of the connection between life and death, the gazing grains are a common feature; however, the dead woman is gazing at the field with a different view. In this instance, the "grain" signifies mortality while "gazing" symbolizes immortality or death. Majorly, the "setting sun" could be representing the passage of time while the "school" created a sense of experience and acceptance of mortality. Besides, the fifth stanza gives more details of the events of death, particularly with pauses in between the lines. The descriptions, "swelling of the ground," "scarcely visible roof," and "the cornice" signify the actual existence of a grace sinking out of sight when an individual is buried, among other events associated with death (Dickinson 18-20).
Later, in the final stanza of the poem, the concept of immortality is presented in line with what death entails (Dickinson 21-24). With the definition of centuries feeling shorter as presented by the narrator, it relates to the setting sun shown in stanza three. Such a description signifies the perception of death as an event between the time of mortality and the timelessness of immortality or eternity. In the definition and understanding of death, Emily Dickinson reconciles mortality and immortality in death, describing it as an inevitable journey. Also, Emily Dickinson's poem provides a view of the afterlife; however, not much is given about it but outlines the nothingness found in death itself.
On the other hand, the poem Reapers provides a significant perception of the idea of death. Through the setting of the poem, Jean Toomer sets the narrator in such a manner that a dark mood and setting are formulated. In this sense, the mood and setting enhance imagery critical in the perception of death, as it virtually conveys the reader on the journey with death. For instance, Toomer begins with "Black reapers..." which sets the mood and the following phrase about "...the sound of steel on stones" creates a sense of readiness to encounter something (Toomer 1). Seen through the second line of the poem, it provides an image of preparation (Toomer 2). In the following lines in the poem, demolition is conveyed as the fourth line talks of silent swings. To the readers, this creates an image of the actual events taking place (Toomer 3-4).
In the fifth line of the poem, it represents the process of mowing as the blades cut through weeds (Toomer 4). However, what follows next brings the sense of death where a field rat is sliced and killed (Toomer 5-8). Although the blade is blood-stained, as described in the last line of the poem, the more continues cutting through the weeds. This incident as an outright representation of what death entails and an often reaction after it had occurred. Somewhat, the idea of pain in death is presented through Toomer's poem as we see a startled rat. Further, traces are left behind to signify death and show evidence of its occurrence. However, even in death, the individual left behind will always undergo on their activities.
Correspondingly, this poem develops a sense of destruction in connection to machines or industrialization. Precisely, machines are presented as a source of chaos, in this case of death, since they have no moral obligation of choices or care. By providing an elegant diction, Toomer develops the idea of death, connecting it to the cruel nature of machinery. Throughout the poem, the dark tone and setting play a significant role in describing death as something resulting in pain and the destruction of life. In a broader sense, death in this novel is signified through the loss of sense of community with the introduction of machinery and industrialization.
In conclusion, both poems, Because I Could Not Stop for Death and Reapers, signify the idea of death by highlighting the actual process and events of death. In one case, the poem by Emily Dickinson outlines death as a journey of mortality and immortality. She resonated with the two ideas to present the nature of death and how it will always occur despite people's unwillingness to encounter death. Comparatively, Jean Toomer signified death in his poem by highlighting its nature and how humans and industrialization have contributed to it. Also, he portrays the darkness in death as it rips things apart.
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