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A Comparison Of Death And Symbolism English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 920 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Emily Dickinson’s poems “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died”, and Kate Chopin’s “Story of an Hour”, all deal with life’s few certainties, death. Dickinson’s intense curiosity towards mortality is present in most of her work, and is her legacy as a poet. Kate Chopin describes death as “comfortable” and “roomy”. Death in all three works of literature is communicating death in very significant ways.

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In “Because I could not stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson death is told as a woman’s last trip to eternity. This poem helps to bring death to a more personal level. Many of us see death as brutal or cruel; Dickinson makes death seem easier because it is natural and unstoppable for everybody. I think it also gives comfort that it is not the end of one’s journey. Its imagery and especially symbolism all help the reader understand the poem’s meaning. The way in which each stanza is written gives the poem unity and makes it easy to read. For example, in line 5, Dickinson begins death’s journey with a slow movement, which can be seen as she writes, “We slowly drove-He knew no haste.”(DiYanni, R., p.810) It speeds up as the trinity of death, immortality, and the speaker pass the children playing, the fields of grain, and the setting sun. (DiYanni, R., p.810) The poem seems to go faster as life goes through its course. However, the poem slows down as Dickinson writes, “we paused before a House that seemed/A Swelling of the Ground.” (DiYanni, R., p.810) It gives you a feeling of life slowly ending. “Immortality” is given a line to itself as to show importance. The poem is ended with a dash, which seems to say that the poem is never ending, just as eternity is never ending.

In the poem “I Heard a Fly Buzz-When I Died”, it points to a disbelief in heaven or any form of the afterlife. In this poem, a woman is lying in bed with her family and friends standing all around waiting for her to die. While the family is waiting for her to pass on, she is waiting for “…the King…” This symbolizes some sort of god that will take her away. (DiYanni, R., 2007) As the woman dies, her eyes, or windows as they are referred to in the poem, fail and then she “…could not see to see-.” (DiYanni, R., 2007) As she died she saw “the light” but then her eyes, failed and she saw nothing. This suggests there is no afterlife. The woman’s soul drifted off into nothing because there is no afterlife for it to travel. This is the complete opposite belief about afterlife in Dickinson’s other poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, which indicates that life is a never-ending journey. These two poems deal with similar topics however they are entirely different in that one believes in life after death and the other does not.

In “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin, we see a different view of death. In the beginning of the story Mrs. Mallard is a woman with a bad heart condition and that she is unaware of her husband’s death. We then meet her sister, Josephine, who is reluctant to tell her sister of her husband’s death. We learn there has been an accident, a railroad disaster, and that Mrs. Mallard’s husband, Brently, who was killed. The armchair in the story in which Mrs. Mallard sits secluding herself in her room after hearing of her husband’s death is described as “comfortable” and “roomy”. It is facing an open window, which symbolizes being open to change, and the fact that it is open shows that it is somewhat warm out suggesting life rather than the cold of winter symbolizing death. She sees the tops of trees that “were all quiver with the new spring of life” symbolizing a new life to come. (DiYanni, R., 2007, p.38) The setting of a “delicious breath of rain” in the air refers to the calmness after the storm when the sun comes back out. Kate Chopin is using this to refer to the death of Mrs. Mallards’ husband and the new joyous life she may now lead that she is free of him. Mrs. Mallard is described as being young and having “a fair, calm face” symbolizing the beauty and innocent of a child. (DiYanni, R., 2007, p.38) Brently Mallard had repressed her, and now through this tragic event she is free of his rule over her and she is able to go on with her life. Then she finds out that he is really not dead. She ascends to the staircase to freedom; everything is suddenly taken away because Brently Mallard is walking in the door unharmed. Mrs. Mallard dies of the joy that kills.

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Poetry offers concise and precise insight, using metaphors in a way which no other written form can. Fiction creates plot structure, characters, and effective descriptions that convey multiple viewpoints. As with these works of literature I have shown that death is not always what it seems. Once you have read each of theses you will see that with Emily Dickinson’s poems “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”, “I Heard a Fly Buzz When I Died” and in Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” death can be infinite, eternal or freedom. Death is unknown; Mankind naturally fears what is unknown Emily Dickinson and Kate Chopin both explore the subject of death.


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