People who write poetry do so for various reasons. They write to express such things as anger, fear, happiness, and the unknown. Whether it is to have a hobby, do something for leisure time, or to express one’s feelings, everyone has their own motive.
The later years of Dickinson’s life were primarily spent in mourning because of several deaths within the time frame of a few years. Emily’s father died in 1874, her nephew Gilbert died in 1883, and both Charles Wadsworth (Emily’s lover) and Emily’s mother died in 1882. Over those years, many of the most influential and precious friendships of Emily’s passed away, and that gave way to the more concentrated obsession with death in her poetry.
As a result of Emily Dickinson’s life of solitude, she was able to focus on her world more sharply than other authors of her time contemporary authors who had no effect on her writing. Emily was original and innovative in her poetry. Many of her poems were completed and written on scraps of paper, such as old grocery lists. Eventually when her poetry was published, they were grouped into classes friends, nature, love, and death. (Black) Many of Emily Dickinson’s poems that were written about death reflect on how she felt about it and how it was an influence in her life.
Because death was occurring so often in the life of Emily Dickinson, I have chosen to write about the influence of it in her poetry. Two poems in which have been found, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and “The Bustle in a House”, can be associated with each other by one of the aforementioned categories: death.
In the poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Dickinson personifies death as a kind person that takes care of people:
Because I could not stop for Death-
He kindly stopped for me-
We slowly drove- He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure took
For His Civility- (Dickinson 5-8).
She also describes several scenes on her voyage throughout death:
We passed the School, where Children
At Recess- in the Ring-
We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-
We passed the Setting Sun- (9-12).
These scenes reveal that Emily Dickinson’s attitude towards death is not scary; it is a slow and peaceful process that can be compared to that of passing a group of school children innocently playing at recess or watching the sun set with a loved one. Perhaps her reflection of death in this particular poem was a way for her to cope with the loss of the persons whom she was close with.
Dickinson’s poem “The Bustle in a House” also centers on the theme of death. This poem may reflect the loss of the people to whom Emily was close to in a different way. Through this poem she conveys losing her loved ones as, “The Sweeping up the Heart / And putting Love away (5-6)”. Here, Emily wrote about her losses perhaps not to try and cope, but to express how she really felt when a death occurred, like her heart was being stolen and love being taken away from her.
Many of the poems written by Emily Dickinson reflect on how she felt about death because it was such an influence in her life. Because she lost close people to her such as her mother, father, nephew, lover, and many friends, Emily took advantage of her talents to write poetry as a way to express her feelings towards death; readers of her poetry can see the influences her life had on what she wrote about. Authors of poetry often write to express such feelings that they have about their life. Whether it is to have a hobby, do something for leisure time, or to express one’s feelings, everyone has their own motive.
Black, Paul E. “Emily Dickinson’s Poems On-Line”. ;a href=”http://lal.cs.byu.edu/people/black/Edickinson/poemsonline.html”;http://lal.cs.byu.edu/people/black/Edickinson/poemsonline.html. March 31, 2000.