Emily Dickinson’s Death Poems: An Analysis of Emily Dickinson Poems about Death

One major theme in Emily Dickinson’s poems is death. Here is a look at several Emily Dickinson’s poems exploring death with my own analysis and commentary on specific poems. Don’t forget to check out the Emily Dickinson teaching page.

Quick Lesson Plan

Here’s a little something I threw together to make your visit more useful and productive: Theme of Death in Emily Dickinson’s Poems.

I feel it’s important to give you something you can use in your classroom right now.


Emily Dickinson Poems about Death

Emily Dickinson Lesson Plans

Just because you love discussing poetry doesn’t mean your students do. These lesson plans will help your students create intelligent discussion topics for several Emily Dickinson poems. Download. Print. Copy. Teach.

Poem: “A Death blow is a life blow to some”

  • Analysis: A belief in eternal life affects much of Dickinson’s death poetry. In “A Death blow is a life blow to some,” Dickinson uses paradox to assert that physical death is the beginning, not the end.

Poem: “After a hundred years”

  • Analysis: Dickinson uses the central image of a tombstone overgrown with weeds to comment on the shortness of life.

Poem: “Because I could not stop for death”

  • Analysis: Dickinson personifies death as a kind stage coach driver taking its visitor, not to some ghastly abode, but toward eternity with Immortality. Notice the precise description of a grave in the fourth stanza; it’s Dickinson at her descriptive best.

Poem: “Death is a dialogue between”

  • Analysis: Dickinson tries her hand at dramatic poetry with a conversation between Death and Spirit. In this poem, death is a defeated enemy.

Poem: “Drowning is not so pitiful”

  • Analysis: Don’t let the image of a drowned man floating face up haunt you to the point of missing the paradox in the last four lines: death is an eternal resting place, yet few of us are in a hurry to get there.

Poem:”Dust is the only secret”

  • Analysis: Dickinson personifies and employs a list of adjectives to describe death. In this example, Death is once again the enemy, who is time and time again thwarted by the mercy of Christ.

More Emily Dickinson Poems about Death

Poem: “If anybody’s friend be dead”

  • Analysis: Dickinson comments on the grief experienced by those who have lost loved ones.

Poem: “If I should die”

  • Analysis: Dickinson reverses the roles in “If I should die.” She declares that if she dies, life goes on, and she is, therefore, relieved that those left behind will continue to experience life.

Poem: “Not any higher stands the grave”

  • Analysis: Dickinson uses the central image of a grave and the sameness of distance from all graves to the heavens as a metaphor for man’s relationship with the Creator.

Poem: “So proud was she to die”

  • Analysis: Dickinson uses irony to describe the living as jealous of one who is dying. Although some may regard the dying woman in the poem as suicidal, the context indicates that the dying woman has been on the brink of death for quite some time and welcomes the end of Earthly pain.

Poem: “Each that we lose takes part of us”

  • Analysis: Dickinson’s belief that all humans are connected and that when one dies or suffers we all die or suffer is the theme of “Each that we lose takes part of us.” She uses the image of the tides, producing an image of the ocean, representing the souls of all flowing in tune with nature.
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