John Donne: Poems

The Attitude Toward Death and Immortality of John Donne in “Death Be Not Proud” and Emily Dickinson in “Because I Could Not Stop For Death”

John Donne and Emily Dickinson, in their poems “Death Be Not Proud” and “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” personify death in order to explain the phenomenon of death and, more importantly, the wonder of eternal life. In his Holy Sonnet “Death Be Not Proud,” John Donne uses personification to characterize death as a weak antagonist, unworthy of the dread it causes. In her work, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death,” Emily Dickinson also personifies death, although her attitude toward death differs from that of Donne. Unlike Donne, who rebukes death as an unimportant figure, Dickinson suggests that death is a charming suitor who takes Dickinson away from life. Although their conceptions of death are dissimilar in nature, both Donne and Dickinson see life beyond death. That belief in immortality even reaches the point of personification in Dickinson’s work: death is portrayed as the guide of the transitional period, from the world of the mortal to the world of the immortal. This attitude toward immortality and death in “Death Be Not Proud” and “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” is supported by the authors’ use of personification and imagery, both of which generate an image of death as merely a companion on the journey to the...

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