Comparative Analysis of Neighbor Rosicky and Because I Could Not Stop for Death





Comparative Analysis of Neighbor Rosicky and Because I Could Not Stop for Death

The short story, Neighbor Rosicky by Willa Cather and the poem, Because I Could Not Stop for Death are illustrations of literary compositions based considerably on the underlying theme of demise. Nonetheless, most of the works composed by Cather and Dickinson generally focus on the brevity and futility of life. This is due to the influence of the settings in which both authors occupied during the early years. Their lives, which were characterized with Puritan-based influence, the farm life, war and the predisposition to urbanization, affected majority of the subjects covered within their aesthetic writings. In this particular case, certain scenes seem to be rather similar in both stories. In Neighbor Rosicky, the panorama in which he isolates himself from his family by heading over to the graveyard reflects a subject of detachment with the world, and his inclination towards death. Similarly, the persona in Because I Could Not Stop for Death leaves her family and memories behind as she journeys with the character of Death.

An Overview of the Selected Scenes

Cather’s Neighbor Rosicky narrates the life of the protagonist, Anton Rosicky as well as his journey towards a surprising and unfortunate death. In the story, the author presents the lead character as a positive, hardworking and big-hearted man due to the generosity he exhibits to other people irrespective of his Czechoslovakian heritage. Adding on to this, the influence of farm life is evident where Rosicky actually works as a farmer in the United States. Without further deviation, the scene under scrutiny in the respective narrative involves the sudden demise of Rosicky. At one point, the protagonist, regardless of his good nature, decides to pass by the graveyard as he drives through his “High Prairie” (Cather 139). After he sees the graveyard, he stops by it and begins to ponder on the beauty of the burial ground.

Similarly, Dickinson’s poem, even though written in first person, contains similar instances such as those reflected in the aforementioned narrative. Accordingly, the sonnet depicts Death and Immortality escorting and accompanying a woman respectively. Towards her last destination, the lead persona provides a description of her journey with the mentioned characters. Her traversing exploits describe her life as well as the presence of Death in certain points of her past existence. With respect to the scene under analysis, certain stanzas show the lead character’s separation from the aspects of her life as she journeys with Death.

Comparative Analysis

The theme of detachment is exemplified considerably in Cather and Dickinson’s literary works. In the example scenes, one can see that both protagonists, regardless of living well, have abandoned such elements in their expedition towards death. The scene in Neighbor Rosicky largely reflects this notion. In spite of having a bad heart, Rosicky seems inclined to continue enjoying the fullness of his life. However, in a specific instance, the protagonist ends up leaving everything else as he drives alone through the snowy valley. In his short journey, he comes across a graveyard. Interestingly, even though graveyards are associated with ominous sentiments and demise, Rosicky is actually interested and ends up reflecting on how “It was a nice graveyard” (Cather 140). He further adds that it was “sort of snug and home-like, not cramped or mournful, – a big sweep all round it” (Cather 140).

In addition to this, Rosicky actually decides to stay by the graveyard and gaze over the fields and the plains. Regardless of his sickly condition, the character seems to enjoy the serenity he has acquired from being away from his family, his doctor and his town. This inclination towards the graveyard and his detachment from his family and society reflect the proximity towards death. Hence, despite of his successes as illustrated by Doctor Burleigh in this quote, “They were comfortable, they were out of debt” (Cather 138), the aspect of death seems to disparage all of these.

The same notion also applies for the scene in Dickinson’s Because I Could Not Stop for Death. In the second stanza, the lead persona detaches herself from her material and social belongings as she travels with the personification of Death. In the second stanza, the character asserts that, “And I had put away/My labor, and my leisure too/For his civility” (Dickinson Line 6-8). Further evidence of detachment with the overall society is in these lines, “We passed the fields of grazing grain/We passed the setting sun” (Dickinson Line 11-12). Regarding this, the protagonist is evidently aware of her inclination towards death and thus, the segregation from her physical life. For the sake of demise, the persona reveals her abandonment of the things that fulfilled her human life. Ironically, the persona, similar to Rosicky, seems to be fearless of death. This may be because of the manner in which Death acts as a gentleman.


Indeed, both Neighbor Rosicky and Because I Could Not Stop for Death are compositions filled with dark sentiments. To the reader, these works are considerably despondent, but in irony, both authors illustrated them positively by refusing to acknowledge the negative sentiments associated with death. In the selected scenes, both characters depict lack of fear for death irrespective of their conditions. On one hand, Rosicky enjoys the site of the graveyard despite of his depreciating health. Similarly, the persona in Dickinson’s poem, regardless of being on the verge of demise, journeys bravely and civilly with death towards her ultimate destination. Lastly, the selected scenes also exemplify the theme of detachment based on the way that both characters isolate themselves from their physical lives on the brink of death.









































Works Cited:

Cather, Willa. “Neighbor Rosicky.” Stories, Poems, and Other Writings. Ed. Sharon O’ Brien. New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 2001. 133-163. Print.

Dickinson, Emily. “Because I Could Not Stop for Death.” Dickinson: Selected Poems and Commentaries. Ed. Helen Vendler. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010. 479. Print.






















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