Death and Love in Walt Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” and Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop for Death”

1111 words 5 pages
Death and Love in Walt Whitman’s “Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking” and Emily Dickinson’s “Because I Could Not Stop For Death”

According to Sigmund Freud’s theories, all of human instincts, energies, and motivations derive from two drives, the sexual and the death drives. The sexual drive initiates self-preservation and erotic instincts, while the death drive moves toward self-destruction and aggression. The death drive contains the individual’s unconscious desire to die, which implies seeking the destruction of the sexual drive. This is why, acording to Stephen P. Thornton, “Freud gave sexual drives an importance and centrality in human life, human actions, and human behavior” (Thornton). Thus, In Freudian terms, every decision
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This aparent “light” tone nevertheless hides the seriousness of the event, the narrator and death begin their slow drive away from life as she begins to die. This drive towards death (out poem) is the passage through life’s stages. First they pass a school “where Children strove/ At Recess” (9-10). This symbolizes the stage of innocence, the children who are playing do not know death yet and cannot see the passing carriage. They then pass “Fields of Gazing Grain” (11) which symbolizes maturity, as well as our connection to nature and the cycle of death and love. The relationship between the narrator in death and nature (life) begins to shift when the setting sun passes them instead of them passing the sun. They are experiencing death, which points to a timeless eternity thus escaping the confines of measurable time. The cycle of life through the perception of time, the setting sun marking our days, points towards a space out of time. Their next stop, a house which is a gravesite in the ground, is a physical representation of that new space being created, as if she were between life and the afterlife. Dickinson ends the poem in a more abstract way using less specific visual imagery (Melani). We know for certain that the narrator is dead because she states “Since then – ‘tis Centuries – and yet/ Feels shorter than the Day” (21-22). Time has ceased to affect the narrator, and yet in her seemingly eternal present she can

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