Emily Dickinson’s two poems, “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” and “I Heard A Fly Buzz-When I Died,” revolve around one central theme, death. Though the two do centralize around the theme of death they both have slightly different messages or beliefs about what is to come after death. By discussing both of the poems and interpreting their meanings, the reader can gain a fuller understanding of the message Dickinson is trying to send to her audience and a greater feel for what may lie ahead in the afterlife.
When Dickinson writes in her first line, “I heard a fly buzz when I died,” it grasps the reader’s attention by describing the moment of her death. After reading the first stanza the reader can almost hear or sense the feeling of the fly buzzing in such a still and quiet room. The contrasting sounds of the noisy fly and the stillness in the air draw the reader deeper into the poem. The image created by this contrast is like the color white on the color black. It stands out immensely and catches the reader’s eye. After the first stanza the reader is in full knowledge of the death of the poet. The second stanza reads, “The eyes beside had wrung them dry, and breaths were gathering sure for that last onset, when the king be witnessed in his power.
” This stanza deals with how God is brought upon by the speaker’s death. Onlookers surround the dead body and seem to be looking for clues to what may eventually await them when it is their turn to pass onto another possible world. In stanza three the speaker is preparing for a journey into an afterlife that may lie ahead.
Dickinson writes, “I willed my keepsakes, signed away what portion of me I could make assignable, – and then there interposed a fly.” After already dying the speaker feels that it is no longer a must to have the possessions that most living people deem necessary and leaves them behind as her soul comes closer to it’s fate. The speaker is getting ready to make this transition to the next world but then the fly reappears and puts a halt to this alteration. The final stanza of this poem includes the lines, “With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz, between the light and me; and then the windows failed, and then I could not see to see.” The word “light” in this stanza can be associated with some heavenly existence or higher power that awaits the speaker. The buzzing fly blocks her view though of where she is heading and the light that was once there is now gone. Though the poem deals with what may await the speaker in the afterlife the reader is still left wondering if anything does await them after death because the speaker does not reach an afterlife in the poem.
Dickinson’s poem “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” serenely describes how the speaker is escorted by Death in his carriage. Death carries the speaker slowly and peacefully through time. It is ironic that Dickinson writes of Death’s civility and politeness during a time that is mostly associated with anger and sadness.
The poem has a certain calm and tranquil feeling to it that makes the reader think of death in a different way than one usually would. Death is usually linked with thoughts of violence and rage not with a tranquil ride in a carriage. In stanza two Dickinson writes, “We slowly drove, he knew no haste, and I had put away my labor, and my leisure too, for his civility.” The speaker respects Death throughout the journey and for the fact that he is not hurrying to arrive at their destination.
It seems as if the concept of time is lost during the poem. This is significant because it shows that when one dies the concept of time is lost. Stanza three states, “We passed the school where children played, their lessons scarcely done; we passed the fields of gazing grain, we passed the setting sun.” This stanza, like the first two stanzas, possesses a strong rhyme to it that puts