Hope is the thing with feathers. is a well known poem. In the introduction to the poet, I read.

Emily Dickinson was an American poet of the 19th century, best known for her eccentric personality and frequent themes of death and morality.

I felt that the expression death and morality was inappropriate and that there was no proper relationship between the two words the coordinating conjunction and connects.

Ref. Cambridge dictionary
and conjunction (ALSO).
used to join two words, phrases, parts of sentences, or related statements together:
Ann and Jim.
boys and girls.
knives and forks.
We were wet and tired.

As per my knowledge, the coordinating conjunction 'and' connects two items of equal value. When I searched about the poet on the internet, I discovered that she wrote on 'death and immortality', which are related topics.
My question -
Is it inappropriate to combine "death and morality" together?
Can you recommend any excellent references on this topic?
Photograph enter image description here

Edit 1:.
Death and Immortality:.
Emily Dickinson wrote on many themes but the above sentence focuses on frequent themes and her eccentric personality. Death is a recurring theme in Dickinson's poetry. She contemplates mortality, the afterlife, and the ephemeral nature of existence. In "Because I could not stop for Death," she personifies death as a gentleman caller, taking the reader on a surreal journey. https://studyenglish24.blogspot.com/2012/09/major-themes-of-emily-dickinsons-poetry.html?m=1

  • It must be a typo. mortality is correct. Nothing ungrammatical about "death and morality". It's just not an apt description here.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 3 at 22:46
  • 1
    You're hopelessly misquoting. Probably only this ELL question has morality. The actual word is mortality - not immortality, which is effectively the complete opposite. Commented Jul 3 at 22:47
  • @TimR Immortality is mentioned at various sites. She also wrote on morality. Commented Jul 3 at 23:13
  • 1
    Haha, a lesson for us all. For you James, to share the screen shot or link to an online source from the start. And for the rest of us, not to jump to conclusions. Commented Jul 4 at 3:50
  • Incidentally, the practice of referring to a 'poetess' or 'authoress', as though there were something unusual about a woman being a writer, is long since obsolete. Commented Jul 4 at 7:30

3 Answers 3


death and morality is not a meaningless combination in cultures whose religions are concerned with eschatology.

death and mortality is pleonastic but that doesn't make it ungrammatical or impossible.

death and immortality in a 19th c. American context brings up the themes of corporal death and the immortality of the soul.


The comments suggest you have misquoted the Emily Dickinson article. But putting that aside, you are also wrong about the use of and. It does not have to connect "two items of equal value." It simply connects any two items.

For example, both of these sentences are valid:

  1. He enjoyed collecting toy cars and trucks.
  2. He enjoyed collecting toy cars and live frogs from the local stream.

In sentence #1, the cars and trucks are similar categories. But this is not because there's a grammatical rule. It's because often the items are already similar. A boy who likes collecting one group may also like collecting other groups that are similar. In sentence #2, cars and frogs are completely different, but if they are the boy's collection interests, then that's fine. And is still perfectly ok.

  • But to me it sounds like eating 1) Fish and cheese 2) Pasta and chips instead of the normal meals. Commented Jul 4 at 7:20
  • In which case you can wonder about their strange eating habits, but not their grammar! Note that you are actually using and in its normal form to tell me that it seems strange. Commented Jul 4 at 11:59
  • Also please pay attention to eccentric personality & frequent themes in the OP sentence. If you search on internet it would show - Death and Immortality'. She wrote 1800 poems but morality wasn't a frequent theme. Commented Jul 4 at 12:32
  • James, that may be true, I don't know anything about her. But you are missing the point. This is not a poetry forum, it's an English language forum, and you need to accept the answer that people are giving you. Commented Jul 4 at 18:35

As Peter said in his answer, similarity in meanings of two nouns isn’t a requisite for connections of the nouns.

On the use of ‘death’ and ‘morality’ together, there are some matches in Google Books for the phrase "death and morality” like this one.

As for the question about appropriateness in

Is it inappropriate to combine "death and morality" together?

as shown in the above links, such combinations have been done. In fact, we should be able to combine these two nouns in other ways to discuss a story like this one, as much as what we can imagine.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .