Edgar Allen Poe: Interpretation Of Death

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10G COMPARATIVE ESSAY / BELLA FARRELLY

Every single living being dies in the long run; this much everyone can agree on. What’s more contentious, however, is what follows death. Throughout “Spirits of the Dead”, Edgar Allen Poe employs emotive and vivid imagery to build an abstract and melancholy poem that grapples with the mystery that is death with, at surface value, remarkable despondence and fear. On the other hand, in “Because I could not stop for Death”, Emily Dickinson, along a dissimilarly clear journey to a fixed destination, meditates over the topic of death and the afterlife with matched intimacy and fixation. However, the poem’s peaceful and blithe sentiment in respect to death, communicated through its personification, sets it
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What is vastly contrasting, however, are the results of this manipulation seen as each poem develops to form vastly divergent interpretations of death; Poe’s “Spirits of the Dead” grows turbulent and melancholic, while Dickinson’s “Because I could not stop for Death” becomes relaxed. Interestingly, however, the speaker of “Spirits of the Dead” eventually comes to terms with death and accepts the mystery that clouds it, and in the poem’s final moments, Poe employs a similar use of imagery to Dickinson in its tranquility. Furthermore, Poe’s abstract exploration of death is expressed not in a clear and logical “journey” as Dickinson’s is, where throughout, the speaker guides the audience through a consecutive sequence of events. Instead, Poe predominantly explores the psyche in reaction to mourning, an already deeply abstract approach that is not necessarily grounded in physical reality. Additionally, earthly scenes contemplated do not clearly relate to each other, make sense in chronological order, nor are they substantiated by an ‘explanation’, but instead, they correlate with each relevant stage of mourning explored. This allows Poe to place importance on the development of the psyche as it responds to mourning, while Dickinson’s piece remains a mellow tale of the speaker’s tangible journey toward the fixed destination of death. Although unsurprising in their confusion, resentment and natural aversion to death - given its fundamental eeriness, its abstract nature, and in some cases, the taboo surrounding its discussion altogether - Poe’s speaker still explores it in such a way that naturally encompasses each stage of mourning, as well as the emotional state of turmoil and unrest that ensues. On the other hand, Dickinson’s speaker explores
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