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The Theme of Death in because I Could not Stop for Death and Death Be not Proud

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Poetry as an art expresses the pedestal realities and emotions in the lives of human beings. Because of the emotional complexity it evokes in humans and being an undeniable truth in life, the conception of death resides in many poetical works and many poets treated differently this subject. This essay will examine the eminent theme of death and the methods it is depicted and presented by three different poems: “Do not go gentle into that good night” by Dylan Thomas, “Because I could not stop for death” by Emily Dickinson and “Death be not proud” by John Donne.

The author’s attitude is a distinguishing factor and can give hints about how they think about a common theme used in poetry like Death. Teodorescu states that:

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“Isolation of the person experiencing death clearly places the person outside a community consensual discourse. He or she has to deal with it on his or her own, thus endowing it with a different tone and character. The past seems to be only a trace that literature greatly defends, and in the face of the inevitable allows the past to present itself anew.”

Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do not go gentle into that good night”, Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for death and John Donne’s poem “Death be not proud” concern death and how people should react to it. For Dylan Thomas, struggling against death is both courageous and a human reaction. He expresses that every man should rage against death by saying: “Do not go gentle into that good night / Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”. Unlike Dylan Thomas Emily Dickinson’s poem present a more positive view of death. She embarks on the idea of go with the flow: “And I had put away / My labor and my leisure too / for his civility.” In terms of their perception of death and immortality, Dickinson and Donne embrace the same Christian perspective. A person dies and goes on to a better place to live forever. Like Dylan Thomas, John Donne also challenging death in a confidant tone. He presents a contradictory argument against the power of death by personification and a shifting tone: ‘Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men….’. In conclusion writer’s attitudes toward death plays the role of an interpretative guide.

When approaching a work of poetry from the analytic point of view it is necessary to examine the structure. Poets write their poems in a certain structure to evoke a particular response within the reader on their theme. When writing, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, and John Donne uses a definitive structure that allows the reader to move easily from beginning to end on the subject of death. Emily Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for death” is in the form of a lyric poem that contains six stanzas, each with four lines. Each stanza depicts another phase of the journey of death. The journey to the grave begins with the first stanza, continues through the second and then in the third stanza, the author seems to review the periods of her life: childhood, maturity, and the descent into death as she passes to the other side. As Emily Dickinson, Dylan Thomas uses a sequence of imagery to portray his poem. Each stanza describes a different type of man at their ending and images in each stanza are cautiously organized in a textured sequence. The unity of the continuing process of life and death linked generations and different men throughout the poem. Dylan Thomas’ choice of verbal style played a dioristic role compared to Dickinson’s. He wrote ‘Do not Go Gentle into That Good Night’ in the poetic structure of a villanelle which generally used in poems dealt with natural or simple themes. By using that suitable form for his poem he narrated his natural view of death. Death be not proud is theoretically a Shakespearean or Elizabethan sonnet, consisting of three quatrains and a couplet. It is considerably rhetorical and devotional. The Philosophy which aroused and then proceed in his poem to disprove a personified antagonist of death. In the first quatrain, he focuses on the subject and audience of this poem, death. The second quatrain turns the criticism of Death as less than fearful into acclaim for Death’s good features. In the final couplet, he closes his argument against Death and poem conclude with an inflating address which intensely claims the victory of mankind over the death.

Thinking the overall idea of death, obvious and general aspects like deprivation and badness sounds like only fundamental and central things to consider but there are many conclusions to be drawn philosophically and physically. Alternatively, poets can concentrate on one aspect of the overall theme or explore different areas and features. Experience of death, whether direct or indirect can make a poet examine questions such as the brevity of life or the inevitability of death, or make them answer in some way with their views. Dylan Thomas wrote his poem during a specific moment in his life. Seeing the death of his father and his unaccomplished aspiration, Dylan Thomas associated the boundedness of time as another aspect of death. Life is a short period and death waits for every human being. In this short period, men should accomplish what they want or do their best. The people in the poem do not cheat death to live another day so the result of fighting death is not victory. Emily Dickinson and John Donne embrace the idea that death is not to be feared since it is a genuine part of the endless cycle of the natural order. Dickinson and Donne approach death through their personal and religious views. Since both sharing the Christian credo, they were optimistic about their utmost destiny but Emily Dickinson more appeared to see death as a friend rather than John Donne. Donne demonstrates the Christian doctrines of resurrection and immortality of the soul. Though Dickinson’s concentration on the uncertain aspect of the theme draws a fine line between immortality and eternity. 

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