Emily Dickinson, an American poet, was interested in the notion of death. She devoted several of her poems to its illustration and perception in different ways. In some of them, the author uses the first person to portray the process of dying and describe the feeling and emotions of a person at the moment of death. “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” are perfect examples of how the poet examines death. Both poems revolve around the theme of death. Although “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and “I heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” share a similarity of having the same theme, they are considerable different in such aspects as messages about what comes after death, the sense of time, tone, as well as the types of literary devices.
In “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Dickinson uses the first person to depict the process of dying and those moments, which come right after the death. The author symbolically describes this process and presents death as a trip to eternity and the transition of a person to the stage of an afterlife. In “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died,” Dickinson demonstrates a vision of death that does not include an afterlife but leads to nothingness. “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” are similar because both of them use death as their central theme. These poems describe death as a part of the ordinary life of a person. Both poems have also peaceful and calm mood, which is quite opposite to how individuals perceive death. In “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” the carriage signifies the journey of life and death while “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” uses the symbol of a fly to denote the presence of freedom and hope, in in their turn, point to the presence of a new life. The narrator of the first poem willingly accepts his or her death just like in the second one, in which the narrator admits, “I willed my Keepsakes – Signed away” (Dickinson, “I Heard” 9). The structure of the poems is also similar as in both of them, lines are written in iambic meter.
Despite the fact that two poems center on the theme of death, both offer different messages about what comes after death. In “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” death appears to be appealing as it “kindly stopped for me” (Dickinson 2). Death takes the narrator on a journey and makes her think about her experiences that lead to a new beginning. “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” illustrates death as a simple end of human life. The speaker waits anxiously “For that last Onset – when the King / Be witnessed – in the Room-” to see how the death comes; however, she focuses her attention on a fly and dies (Dickinson, “I Heard” 2).
The second apparent difference between Dickinson’s poems is the sense of time. “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” is instant in time because it illustrates one or two moments that the narrator experiences and describes intensely. The poem avoids mentioning the sense of time that passes over duration, which means that this is a poem about one moment of death. On contrast, in “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” time is not measured in the same way as in the previous poem. Dickinson prolongs the sense of time by depicting several moments.
The third feature that makes two poems be different is tone. The dramatic tone of “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” is gloomier than the one presented in “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” In the first poem, the narrator is slowly waiting for her death. The author utilizes such adjectives as “stillness” (Dickinson, “I Heard” 2) and “stumbling” (Dickinson, “I Heard” 13) to demonstrate the dramatic nature of the narrator’s feelings. Such dramatic tone also sets a frightening atmosphere of the depicted room. For instance, the poet writes “The Stillness in the Room / Was like the Stillness in the Air -” (Dickinson, “I Heard” 2-3). These elements contribute to the creation of a special tone that helps the writer to portray the death drama. On the contrary, in comparison with the previous poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” offers a tone that the audience can easily accept. Dickinson illustrates that the speaker feels to be in a peaceful atmosphere. She obediently accepts the fate, which the death offers to her. To create an easy and calm tone, the author writes, “We slowly drove – He knew no haste” (Dickinson, “Because I” 5). To depict a dreamy atmosphere, Dickinson says, “We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – / We passed the Setting Sun –” (“Because I” 11-12). The evidence proves that in comparison with “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died,” this poem offers a calm and quiet tone, which makes the readers think that death is a peaceful event in human life.
The fourth difference is the types of literary devices that Emily Dickinson uses in her poems. For example, in “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” the author includes hidden personifications. In this poem, death resembles a kind young man, who “kindly stopped for” carrying the narrator to eternity and immortality (Dickinson, “Because I” 2). The author also uses personification in the description of the sun as she gives it characteristics pertaining to people. For example, Dickinson writes, “We passed the Setting Sun – / Or rather – He passed Us –” (“Because I” 12-13). To convey her message, Dickinson also uses such elements as “School,” which define the narrators’ youth (9), “Gazing Grain” that signify his or her older years of a person (11) while “the Setting Sun” point to the end of the speakers’ life and the beginning of a new one (12).
In contrast, “I Heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” uses a simile to contrast the air of the flat with its stillness. For instance, Dickinson says, “The Stillness in the Room / Was like the Stillness in the Air –” (“I Heard” 2-3). The poet also uses onomatopoeia by mentioning the fly’s buzz as the word imitates the sound, as well as symbolism as “the King” symbolizes the death (Dickinson, “I Heard” 7). The metaphor, “And then the Windows failed – and then / I could not see to see -” uses the word “Windows” for representing the narrators’ eyes (Dickinson, “I Heard” 15-16). As a result, despite the fact that Dickinson utilizes literary devices in both poems, the literary devices used in each of them are different.
In conclusion, taking into consideration the findings of the study “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” and “I heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” are similar as they have the same theme. However, these poems also differ with the types of literary devices and the messages about what comes after death as the former one describes afterlife while the latter one refers to the death as to the last moment of human life. “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” offers calm toner with the prolonged sense of time while “I heard a Fly Buzz – When I Died” is a dramatic poem with only one moment described.