Death and Immortality: The Everlasting Themes/LA MORT ET L'IMMORTALITÉ: UN THÈME ÉTERNEL

By Xiao-chuan, Ren | Canadian Social Science, October 31, 2009 | Go to article overview

Death and Immortality: The Everlasting Themes/LA MORT ET L'IMMORTALITÉ: UN THÈME ÉTERNEL


Xiao-chuan, Ren, Canadian Social Science


Abstract:

The themes of death and eternity impenetrate most of Emily Dickinson's poems. This paper will analyze and appreciate one of her famous poems- "Because I could not stop for death" to help readers achieve better understanding of the themes.

Key words: death; eternity; immortality

Résumé: La plupart des poèmes d'Emily Dickenson ont pour thème la mort et l'éternité. Dans cet article, nous allons analyser l'un de ses plus célèbres poèmes Parce que je ne pouvais pas m'arrêter pour la mort à fin d'aider les lecteurs à mieux comprendre ce thème.

Mots-Clés: mort; éternité; immortalité

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In Emily Dickinson's poems, we can sense her concerns with human perception, suffering, growth, friendship and love. Still important are her concerns with death and immortality. Many of her poems deal with this theme, such as "It was not Death, for I stood up", "Those not live yet", "The last Night that She lived" and "I heard a Fly buzz - when I died". Actually, about one third of her poems are about this theme, which lies at the center of her poetic world.

A brief introduction to her background can help give us insights into her religious viewpoint and throw light on the question why she was obsessed with death and immortality. Calvinism, sometimes called Puritanism, which was also the conventional religion of her family, was the major underpinning of nineteenth-century Amherst society, though it was undergoing shocks and assaults. The major ideas lie in that man is sinful and unregenerate. God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. For Dickinson, the crucial religious question was the survival of the soul after death. She rejected absolutely the idea of man's innate depravity; she favored the Emersonian partial reversal of Puritanism that conceived greatness of soul as the source of immortality. The God of the Bible was alternately real, mythical, and unlikely to her. She could neither accept nor reject His assurance of a life beyond death. This struggle and doubts about the existence of God and the realization of after-life have found their way in her works.

Chekhov once said that there was a macula swaying in front of every one .It turned out that it was our grave when we could see it clearly. We approach the macula with the passage of time. None of us can move over the macula. Nor can we stop approaching it. Therefore, many people are filled with fear concerning death. As for Emily Dickinson, she did not fear it, because the arrival in another world is only through the grave and the forgiveness from God is the only way to eternity. But the fact that many friends died before her, and that death seemed to occur often in the Amherst of the time added to her gloomy meditation. As there were frequent death-scenes in homes, this factor contributed to her preoccupation with death. Dickinson's interest in death was often criticized as being morbid, but in our time readers tend to be impressed by her sensitive and imaginative handling of this painful subject.

"Because I could Not Stop for Death" is Emily Dickinson's most anthologized and discussed poem. The poem and its translation are as follows:

Because I could not stop for Death

Because I could not stop for Death

He kindly stopped for me~

The Carriage held but just Ourselves

And Immortality.

We slowly drove-He knew no haste

And I had put away

My labor and my leisure too,

For His Civility

We passed the School, where Children strove

At Recess- in the Ring

We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain

We passed the Setting Sun

Or rather~He passed us~

The Dews drew quivering and chill

For only Gossamer, my Gown

My Tippet- only TuIIe-

We paused before a House that seemed

A Swelling of the Ground

The Roof was scarcely visible

The Cornice- in the Ground

Since then- 'tis Centuries- and yet

Feels shorter than the Day

I first surmised the Horses' Heads

Were toward Eternity

-By Emily Dickinson

Some critics believe that this poem shows death escorting the female speaker to an assured paradise. …

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Death and Immortality: The Everlasting Themes/LA MORT ET L'IMMORTALITÉ: UN THÈME ÉTERNEL
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