Compare and Contrast Poems “Buffalo Bill’s” and “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson

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Because I Could Not Stop For Death

Poetry is very essential to life since it is a way of expressing the feelings of one’s innermost. In addition, it helps in providing a crucial outlet for adolescent mindset, which is ever changing. Beginning every school year with the unit of poetry, it sets the tone for an environment that is comfortable in which all students are willing to risk recitation as well as memorization both individually and before class.

Moreover, this unit gives the students a chance to research and compare different poet lives, whether past or present. As a result, the students are able to realize that poetry normally appears in many given variety forms and styles. In addition, students also understand that the message in the poem, which expresses the poets feelings can also affect other’ lives in the same way. This paper will explore a comparison on how the two poems, Buffalo Bill’s by Edward Estlin Cummings and Because I Could Not Stop For Death by Emily Dickinson personify death.

In the poem, “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” the poet explains her acceptance to her death. She personifies death as something that is inevitable and comes to her in an uncontrollable way. However, as she narrates the poet seems to be confused of whether she wants to be alive or dead. In the first stanza, the poet says that she could not stop for death and that the death kindly stopped for her. This shows that she is not ready to die but she accepts that death is a natural phenomenon, which is common to human beings and normally come at its own time regardless of what one is doing or where one is, to which the poet is contented.

In the poem, the poet personifies death as a gentle man that is kind or as the poet’s groom, which comes to pick her up in order to take her away on a pleasant ride in his carriage. Ironically, the poet also realizes that there is someone else, who is accompanying them and is riding along with them. She identifies the other person as immortality but she looks at it in a positive way (Priddy & Bloom 214). Another interesting thing is portrayed in how she separates immortality and death.

She says “The carriage held but ourselves… and immortality”. The poet also seems excited about the journey she is taking with her two companions. In addition, the poet feels to be so pleased by the courtesy of the gentleman that she decides to give up her freedom and distress in order to enjoy death. She says that when one is dead, there are no more leisure times nor troubles. She also feels happy as she exchanges her life for civility of death, the poet feels happy. At a time, the poet seems like she want to die sooner but she could not. The death seems like it came to her in a slow form as if the poet was ill. In addition, the poet does not realize where she is heading as death is driving the carriage away slow and with no hurry. This indicates that the poet is already dead and she is being taken in a hearse (Grabher et al. 149).

In addition, the poet views her life as a movie that is being played as she watches. Children’s playing reminds the poet of her childhood, as energetic as well as full of life. The grains indicate the harvest time and represent her adulthood and as she gazes at the grains, this shows that the poet might have missed something in her adulthood that she might have done. The setting of the sun indicates to her that it is the end of the day, but in the real sense it means symbolizes the mature years that indicates her old age and marking the end of her life. Moreover, it seems like the death is taking her a tour of her life, through her memories and it’s like she is getting a last glimpse of her life that she is about to leave behind before reaching to her final destination.

At the end of the poem, as she and her companions paused before a certain house, which could also indicate her new home, she comes into a conclusion that she is in a grave. This is indicated by the presence of swelling grounds, a roof that was hard to see; indicating the top of casket, and the cornice that was on the ground; indicating the tombstone, where the poet realizes that she is buried at that place.

In her conclusion, she says that she has been buried for a long period, although she feels like it is even less than a day. In addition, she also senses that her life has passed her so fast like the sun passed before she could reach where she was going, and it is faster than she expected. This indicates that her soul had been wondering around and at the same time, she was thinking that she had been alive until the time she saw her grave.

Moreover, the poet sounds and seems to be disappointed and shocked by finding out that she had reached to her destiny. At the beginning of the poem, the poet seems to be happy about her journey but as the poem develops, the poet seems to regret if she had more time to enjoy her life before the gentleman came for her. At this point, she has no other option but to accept her fate and continue with her journey until she reaches to her destiny (Beardwood 58).

Nevertheless, the most common theme in this poem is about the human life with its relationship to death as well as eternity. In the poem, the poet describes death as a pleasant and gentle experience, and then eternity as the final reward. The poet does not describe heaven or hell as the alternative. This scenario gives an impression that to the poet heaven and hell do not exist, and hence it is either eternity or immortality.

Moreover, the death in this poem is compared to a vehicle that picks everyone up whenever they are. One have no option because death will definitely have to stop for everyone and that it does not hurry or be harsh, since everyone is destined to be the deaths’ passenger whether they are willing or not. In her situation, she seems to have accepted her situation in a calm way since she knows that death is inevitable. Emily Dickinson portrays death, in the poem in an uplifting and positive way as a start of eternity rather than a certain tragedy. In addition, by the poet putting her troubles and sorrows away, she feels that she is ready to rest. Her views of death as well as eternity portray her personality as well as her religious believes (Viviers & Schalkwyk 149).

The vision of death as it is portrayed in the Emily Dickinson’s poem is expressed as a companion rather than anything else. She portrays it as a force of reverie, comfort and as a companionship that is careful. In the poem, there is death construction where the poet is able to revisit her past life through a journey with her death as her companion. Moreover, death is not presented as a menacing force that normally causes separation as well as pain.

Rather, the poet describes it as where one gets company and is able to view life as well as the transitory nature of consciousness. Nevertheless, the poet’s personification of death is very different from the western traditions. In these traditions, their visions of death involve little or no embrace to it or prevent its occurrence.

Death in the poem is also personified as a person who stops for the poet. This indicates that death has the ability to stop as it waits for somebody. The poem presents death as a person and his main aim in the poem to get the poet and then escort her to her final destination. However, the poet seems to be so busy in getting on with her life in order to stop living. Unfortunately, death arrives and picks the poet where she seems to accept the situation as she reflects back about her past life as she heads to her grave.

Buffalo Bill’s

On the other hand, Buffalo Bill’s by e. e. Cummings have more than one possibility of attitude and meaning in the poem concerning the subject matter, the dead hero, Buffalo Bill. It is an illustration of respect concerning the heroic personality of the man. The poet is making fun of the traditional heroism of killing the harmless and armless animals with the use of guns. It may not be clear after reading through the poem whether the narrator is writing about Buffalo Bill’s death or life, cruelty or heroism to animals, his achievement or whether the irony that the he died the same death. The poet has left his intention unspecified and due to this, the readers are entitled to make various interpretations of the poem.

The narrator seems like he is holding death responsible of taking Buffalo Bill’s life. The narrator also claims that death is the end and that when it takes a person away from where he is, it takes him for eternity. He claims that death always transports people to where they are supposed to be. According to the speaker, death normally takes people to eternity even when their time is not due. The speaker says, “Sometimes it worries me how people die” to personify that death normally cares for people he is about to take. Cummings refers to Buffalo Bill as a man who was handsome. In the end, the narrator asked death whether he liked the blue-eyed boy or not. By referring him as a man while he was alive and later a boy after his death, he brings down buffalo bill’s status from someone who was strong, as well as independent to someone who is dependent and weak. The fact that the narrator calls buffalo bills a boy contrast how he calls death “Mister Death”, and this death personification generates death’s image as Buffalo Bill’s master

Theme of heroism is also portrayed in the poem

The theme of irony of Cody’s death, which was very un-heroic, is also equally true. The attitude toward William Cody by the poet could bring mixed feelings. The poem is based on an American Cowboy, William Cody, who is also referred to as Buffalo Bill. The poem is a tribute to the hero who mercilessly killed buffalo and pigeons. The poem is ironic and it tries to convey the message that no one is a hero when it comes to death. Its typography is also compared as a pistol and a gun. Buffalo Bill in the poem is dead and the poet reckons how he used to ride a horse when going to hunt. While he was hunting, he could shoot down so many pigeons or buffalo in a series. He addresses death as “Mr. Death” and he comments that death does not discriminate. However, this turns out to be ironic on second thought (Turner & Alberta 44).

In addition, the word defunct is not appropriate since the word means no longer operating in case of a machine. This is unsympathetic because the heroism may have died with the hero. This shows no one is mortal or famous forever. William Cody, who was a former scout, used to kill many animals carelessly. He was a hunter and had killed thousands of brown buffalo, which had almost come to extinction. His presence-personified death to animals but the pangs of death could not also leave him. He later became an actor where he stereotyped hero of novels. He also symbolized the Wild West, but his popularity and power of handsomeness and “blue eyed” did not last. The narrator becomes intimate with Death finally at the end of the poem, and he pretends not to realize that death normally takes everyone (Mawdsley 57).

The poem is variable in theme and tone. It starts with a neutral tone, which is actually ironic when closely examined. The lament of the word “Jesus” shows how it develops to be a serious matter. The sincere regard paid to the hero is complemented by ridicule on his reckless killing and the sarcasm of his death that did not spare him. The typographical dimension of this poem is notable and the narrator praises the dead hero but he also belittles him. The poet admires the showmanship and he belittles Buffalo Bill to exceed him in stature. The poem is a portrait of an admiring speaker who is also disrespectful and not aware of the logical flaw in reasoning and the irony of his situation (Flajsar at el 64).


In the poem, Because I Could Not Stop For Death, the poet encourages the reader to take life advantage, in order to realize how important and short life is. In addition, the poem makes the readers understand that death does not wait for anybody, but comes without any warning as well as not caring about the time or place where the person is. The Buffalos Bill’s poet does not view the concept of death with the expected and usual respect for the dead. He is un aware and even somewhat joking and flippant. However, the things he comments on concerning Buffalo Bill make a strong comparison with the idea of death. The picture called up tends to be one of tremendous speed and vitality.

The picture of Buffalo Bill that is portrayed here by being referred as defunct is a notice of him in action snapping five clay pigeons in succession as he shines by on his stallion. The interjection that follows is the sort of rupture of boyish approval that may be struck from a boy remembering him as he saw. The quality of handsome applies not merely to the face but the entire figure in action. The figure of the spectator during a performance of the Wild West helps justify the manner and languages of expression used in order to make us feel it is in character. The poet tries to imply the fact that even a man who had huge unfailing youthfulness and vitality had had to die but the way the message is being conveyed is ironical and sarcastic.

Work Cited

Beardwood, Robert. Literature for Senior Students. Elsternwick, Vic: Insight Publications, 2010. Print.
Flajs?ar, Jir?i?, and Ze?no? Vernyik. Words into Pictures: E. E. Cummings’ Art Across Borders. Newcastle, U.K: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2007. Internet resource.
Grabher, Gudrun, Roland Hagenbu?chle, and Cristanne Miller. The Emily Dickinson Handbook. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1998. Print.
Mawdsley, Ralph D. Legal Aspects of Plagiarism. Topeka, Kan: National Organization on Legal Problems of Education, 1985. Print.
Priddy, Anna, and Harold Bloom. Bloom’s How to Write About Emily Dickinson. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2008. Internet resource.
Turner, Alberta T. To Make a Poem. San Diego, Calif: Collegiate Press, 1992. Print.
Viviers, D, and Schalkwyk H. Van. Success with English Language and Communication Skills. Cape Town: Makew Miller Longman, 1992. Print.

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