Emily Dickinson Emily Dickinson’s poems, “Because I Could Not Stop For Death” and “I Heard A Fly Buzz-When I Died,” are both about one of life’s few certainties, death. However, that is where the similarities end. Although Dickinson wrote both poems, their ideas about what lies after death differ. In one, there appears to be life after death, but in the other there is nothing. A number of clues in each piece help to determine which poem believes in what.
The clues in “I heard a Fly buzz-when I died,” point to a disbelief in an afterlife. In this poem, a woman is lying in bed with her family or friends standing all around waiting for her to die. While the family is waiting for her to pass on, she is waiting for “..the King..” This symbolizes some sort of god that will take her away. As the woman dies, her eyes, or windows as they are referred to in the poem, fail and then she “..could not see to see-.” As she died she saw”the light” but then her eyes, or windows, failed and she saw nothing. This is the suggestion of there being no afterlife.
The woman’s soul drifted off into nothingness because there was no afterlife for it to travel to. This is the complete opposite belief about afterlife in Dickinson’s other poem, “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” In the piece, “Because I Could Not Stop For Death,” Dickinson tells the story of a woman who is being taken away by Death. The speaker in the poem clearly states that she will not stop for Death but that it will have to come and get her. This is illustrated in the second line of the poem “Because I could not stop for Death- He kindly stopped for me.” “The Carriage held but just Ourselves-And Immortality.” The idea of immortality is the first indication that this poem believes in an afterlife. In many religions, where there is a grim reaper type spirit, this being will deliver a person’s soul to another place, usually heaven or hell.
In the third stanza the speaker talks of how she and Death passed the school, the “Fields of Gazing Grain-We passed the Setting Sun.” This stanza is referring to the woman looking bac on her own life as she is dying. This would not be possible without an afterlife because if the soul were to simply drift away into nothingness, it wouldnt be able to reflect its lifetime. After this Dickinson presents the idea of the coldness of death in saying “The Dews drew quivering and chill.” This is when we know for sure that the woman is in fact dead. In the fifth stanza, Death and the woman pause before “..a House that seemed A Swelling of the Ground- The Roof was scarcely visible- The Cornice in the Ground-.” Even though the poem does not come out and say it, it is likely that this grave is the woman’s own. If this is true, then her spirit or soul must be what is looking at the”house.” In most religions, the idea of spirits and souls usually mean that there is an afterlife. It is not until the sixth and final stanza where the audience gets solid evidence that this poem believes in an afterlife.
The woman recalls how it has been “..Centuries- and yet feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses’ Heads were toward Eternity-.” To the soul, it has been at least a hundred years since Death visited her, but to the woman, it has felt like less than a day. Because a human body cant live for hundreds of years, the soul is who has come to the realization that so much time has passed. The final part with the horses refers to the horse drawn carriage the woman was riding in when she passed away. In those two final lines, the horses seem to be leading her into Eternity, or into an afterlife. Finally, these two poems deal with similar topics however they are entirely different in that on believes in life after death and the other does not. These two poems raise the question in whether or not there is anything after death, but that question is left to be answered until our final day on Earth.