Contrast and Comparison of Emily Dickinson’s and Robert Frost’s Poetry

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Table of contents

  1. Structure
  2. Poetic Techniques
  3. Simile and Alliteration

Poems Both Elizabeth Dickinson and Robert Frost are renowned poets, and their poems have contributed fabulously to the world literature. Dickinson’s poem “Because I Could Not Stop for Death” is one of her great works that were published in a series of poems in 1890. Dickinson’s poem was influenced by her obsession with the topics related to immortality and death as a young woman. Some of the themes from the pome include death, journey, kindness, and immorality.

On the other hand, “The Road not Taken” by Robert Frost was published in 1916 in one of his first collection of poems. This poem was influenced by Frost’s interaction with key writers in England such as Edward Thomas, whom he spent most of his time with. Among the key themes highlighted in this poem include journey, decisions, ambiguity, and determinism. In both poems, the concept of a journey is depicted while also differing in other themes.


Regarding structure, the poets have used different features to develop the structure of the poems. First, in Dickinson’s poem, there are six stanzas, with four lines each. This makes the total number of lines of the whole poem to be twenty-four. On the other hand, in Frost’s poem, there are four stanzas with five lines each. This brings the total number of lines used in the whole poem at twenty.

Unlike Frost’s poem, Dickinson’s poem uses different syllables in every line. For instance, in the first line of the first stanza, there are ten syllables and the second line has only seven syllables. In Frost’s poem, all lines have the same syllables, eleven in every line of every stanza. Further, rhyme is another element used as part of the structure. In Dickinson’s poem, rhyme has been used in in the first stanza; for instance, in the word like “me” and “immortality” (Dickinson, 1890, p. 2/3). Similarly, Frost has also used rhyme in his poem “The Road Not Taken.” For example, the rhyming words in the first stanza include “wood-stood-could, both-undergrowth (Frost, 1916, p. 1/4).” Only Frost’s poem has a noticeable rhyme scheme. For example in the first stanza: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, (a) And sorry I could not travel both (b) And be one traveler, long I stood (a) And looked down one as far as I could (a) To where it bent in the undergrowth;” (b) (Frost, 1916, Line 1-4) Therefore, the rhyme scheme of this stanza is ABAAB.

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Both poets have gone contrary to the traditional punctuation rules by using line breaks. Even though there is no case of stanza break, but line breaks are very evident in both poems, especially in Dickinson’s poem. In both poems, the poets have used line breaks to achieve the same purpose, to force the reader to pause slightly and create a surprise for the next line.

For example, in Dickinson’s poem she uses line breaks in every line of every stanza; for instance, in the first stanza, the line break in the second line is used to allow the reader to pause before continuing to read. In Frost’s poem, a line break is rarely used; he has used it only once in the last stanza, the third line to create a pause for the reader.

Poetic Techniques

The use of Metaphor First, in both poems, the poets have used metaphor as a poetic technique to explain their journey. In Dickinson’s poem, the metaphor is evident in the first stanza as she writes that “the carriage held but just ourselves” (Dickinson, 1890, p. 3). In this case, Dickinson has described the carriage that is carried by death, but she does not mean an actual carriage. But, instead, her statement here refers to a metaphor used to describe a life journey that ends in someone passing from one life to another, being dead.

Similarly, Frost’s poem also involves metaphor. The whole poem is about metaphor. However, the key lines that mark the use of metaphor in this poem include “two roads diverged” (p. 1). In this statement, Frost does not provide a literary reference to the actual road, but he talks of the life and the choices that one has to make as one progress through the journey of life. The divergence he describes refers to the different decisions and options that are presented in every situation that requires a decision to be made.

Simile and Alliteration

Unlike Dickinson, Frost has used simile as a poetic technique to compare and contrast things. In Dickinson’s poem, there is no place where she has used the words used to identify a simile “like and as.” Unlike Dickinson’s poem where there is no use of simile, Frost’s poem uses simile in the first line of the second stanza to compare fair and just; he writes that “then took the other, as just as fair” (Frost, 1916, p. 5). In this case, Frost tries to paint the picture of making a decision in the reader’s mind. Alliteration, however, has been used in both poems to improve their writing.

In Dickinson’s poem, alliteration is not brought out as in Frost’s poem. For instance, alliteration in Dickinson’s poem is evident in line five “he knew no haste” where the words “knew” and “no” alliterate. In Frost’s poem, the alliterating words include “wanted” and “Wear (p. 8).” In these two words, the letter “w” has been repeated.

In conclusion, Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death” and Frost’s poem “The Road not Taken” share some similarities and also have some noticeable differences. From this discussion, both poems share certain poetic techniques such as metaphor and alliteration as well as the theme of journey, which appears in both poetic works. However, there are also some differences that were noted including the use of simile in Frost’s poem and none used in Dickinson’s poem as well as the poem structures.

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