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Theology Leads to Interpretation Essay

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Emily Dickinson’s extensive collection of poems on the subject of death can be better understood individually once time has been taken to view her works as whole. By viewing the works as a whole, it is possible to conclude a likely theological view point of the author and then apply this theology to the individual works in order to improve interpretation. Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” is one such poem that when viewed individually is open to a wide scope of readings. Using Dickinson’s other works in collaboration with the poem itself creates a theological viewpoint through which a more defined interpretation can be reached.
Dickinson’s poems on death indicate a theology which extends the concept of stages in life to stages in death. The stages of life are briefly presented in “Because I could not stop for Death” as the subject of the poem describes the scenes she passes in the carriage; “the School, where the children strove” represents childhood; “the Fields of Gazing Grain” represents maturity; and “the Setting Sun” old age (Shaw). These three stages of life could better be described as the stages of living, as an active ongoing process through which the stages operate “as a continuum” which “invests these isolated events with meaning.” (Shaw). Dickinson creates equilibrium to these three stages of life by depicting three stages of death: dying- death of the body, death- death of the self, and immortality-the afterlife. “Death in Emily Dickinson is not singular, nor simple, that it may usefully be subdivided” into stages in order to instill the meaning generated from the stages of life into the stages of death (Nesteruk).
In Peter Nesteruk’s article “The Many Deaths of Emily Dickinson” he describ...


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...en missed by others are not only brought to life but are given added significance. These transitions allow the reader to “momentarily glimpse a universe in which the seemingly distinct and discontinuous stages of existence are holistically implicated and purposed” (Shaw).


Works Cited

Peter Nesteruk. "The Many Deaths of Emily Dickinson." The Emily Dickinson Journal 6.1 (1997): 25-43. Project MUSE. Web. 29 Mar. 2014. .
Spencer, Mark. "Dickinson's BECAUSE I COULD NOT STOP FOR DEATH." Explicator 65.2 (2007): 95-96. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.
Shaw, M.N. "Dickinson's Because I Could Not Stop For Death." Explicator 50.1 (1991): 20. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.
Abbott, Collamer M. "Dickinson's 'Because I Could Not Stop For Death'." Explicator 58.3 (2000): 140. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.



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