As one makes their way through the lines their emerges an imagery reflective of Dickinson’s Christian belief in the afterlife and a poignant picture of how she views death will come, where it will take her, and a hopeful projection of eternity.
Dickinson often dealt with universal themes in her poetry, exploring events at times extremely personal and specific. Death is one of them. In it Dickinson, a Christian, uses the fine art of imagery to make the feared concept of death into something to be less feared and more something inevitable to contemplate as an expected and welcomed friend—a friend that guides us to the glorious afterlife. Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me. It is the non-threatening, positive image, if you will, reflecting the fact that the individual has little control over when death will come, but death, in its inevitable way, “stops,” interrupting it’s path, and takes the chosen one along with it to a better place.
In addition to the use of the word “kindly,” she adds the image of Civility, a different image in that kindness requires empathy, where Civility requires a concerted effort to assuage a difficult situation in the interests of doing just that. We slowly drove-He knew no haste. Death, recognizing her reluctance and perhaps fear to accept her fate, did it’s best to civilly sooth the journey—turning an otherwise negative event into one at least palatable.
The use of poignant images from life stir the heart, as Dickinson obviously intended. Who can not relate to thoughts upon death of their childhood, their schoolyard: Recess-in the Ring-We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain-We passed the Setting Sun- [itself obvious imagery used to convey life’s cycles from beginning to end, and the setting of life ebbing]. With the next line, she hardens the image of the sun with the use of words such as Dews drew quivering and chill as the impending reality of death and its finality nears.