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Dickinson’s use of symbolism and personification in describing her journey, or rather, her encounter with death helps bring out her point of view.
Dickinson’s use of symbolism shows during the drive in the chariot which symbolizes her journey from the living to the dead. She passes from childhood (“We passed the school, where Children strove”) to maturity (“We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain”) then to her time of dying (“We passed the Setting Sun”) then eventually to her grave (“A Swelling of the Ground”). Notably, there is the repetition of the word “passed” which brings out the theme of symbolism. In stanzas three and four, Dickinson uses the word four times as the carriage symbolically moves down the path of life from the children and the grain, which are both living to the time of transition, or death, the setting sun. From this point onwards, the time stops, and it is the sun that passes them. This shows that they passed out of time of the living into the time of eternity where only time can pass them. The transition starts as when the sun sets, and everything becomes dark thus welcoming the damp and cold of the night (“dew drew quivering and chill.”)
The use of personification in the poem occurs in two instances as Dickinson takes us through the drive with death. First, she personifies Death itself into a gentleman caller because she refers to him as a ‘he,’ in stanzas 1 and 2 while the rest of the stanzas she uses ‘we’ to show that two people are together. She also uses capital D when mentioning Death thus stressing the fact that Death is a name of a gentleman, and all names of people begin with a capital letter. Secondly, Dickinson personifies the setting sun when she refers to it as a ‘he’ when she says “Or rather He passed Us.” In this case, she acknowledges the capability of the sun as a point of transition. In the
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