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Analysis and comments on My Life had stood -- a Loaded Gun -- by Emily Dickinson

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Comment 8 of 118, added on December 12th, 2005 at 3:59 PM.

My life stood...a loaded gun
means that Emily can only use writing as her weapon, but can never die ...
even if she wants to.

di from United States
Comment 7 of 118, added on October 24th, 2005 at 9:48 PM.

When doing this poem in my Contemperary Voices class my teacher explained
to us that Emily Dickinson was talking about language, and how she used it
as a weapon. How she could use it to hurt somebody, and that when she is
stressed or angry and she uses her langugage to express what shes feeling,
that she feels satisfaction or happiness because she was able to express
what she was feeling. Personally I am very confused about this poem and I
have to do an essay on it and I don't even know what to write, I read what
most of you said and I do have to agree with you, what you are saying makes
sense, this is why I am confused.

Nicole from United States
Comment 6 of 118, added on September 20th, 2005 at 10:38 AM.

I don't think that Emily Dickinson was a romantic poet at all in the sense
that romantic poets talk about love. The poem involves a large amount of
anger and is about the mistreatment of women throughout society. They are
like loaded guns with the potential to do so much, but they can only
accomplish things if they are owned by a man. I don't think the poem should
be taken as endearing or romantic. Also, if you plan to live your life by
the poem then you plan to be walked all over.

meg from United States
Comment 5 of 118, added on July 31st, 2005 at 5:40 PM.


It is with great enthusiasm that a discussion of this poem by my favorite
and most influential poet, Emily Dickinson, exists. I know not of another
poem quite as romantic, so full of yearning for completeness, as this.
Ever since I came upon it, I have lived my life in accordance to it. And
so, I must shed light on what this poem truly means to me, and how I
believe it was intended to mean.

"My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun--" is the most passionate poem I know of.
Simple because there is so much desire, so much yearning and longing for
love, so much dream for that one person to complete you. Throughout the
piece, think about how we ourselves desire, unconditionally, completeness
and unity in that one true love--where everything finally makes sense, the

My Life had stood--a Loaded Gun--
In Corners--till a Day
the Owner passed--identified--
and carried Me away--

relates her, the narrator's life, to that of an inanimate object--something
not living, yet full of power, full of potential, hence, the word "loaded."
Yet her life is stationary, sitting in a corner, waiting for that day, the
day the "Owner" comes to claim her as his love. (Think of it this way: when
you truly love someone, do you not claim him or her as "yours?" or that he
or she belongs to you?) Continuing, and so he comes to claim her and carry
her away***think marriage, how the groom carries the bride.***

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods --
And now We hunt the Doe --
And every time I speak for Him --
The Mountains straight reply --

Now, they are One. The hunter and his gun, or the husband and his wife
(stanza 5 focuses on the narrator as the protector so here she hints on the
fact that she, like the gun, is protecting her man.) And so they both go
off into the world. "And every time I speak for Him--/The Mountains
straight reply--" implies that whenever she speaks on his behalf which is
the gun firing, the echo effect of the sound roaring through the woods is
the reply. Also, by speaking on his behalf, she as the bride/wife, is
protecting and upholding his reputation by acting as his representative.

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow --
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through --

And when at Night -- Our good Day done --
I guard My Master's Head --
'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow -- to have shared --

Here Dickinson relates her exuberant smile to the spark from the gun being
fired. Her smile and happiness is enough to make the whole valley glow. And
when night approaches and they have spent a wonderful day together, she
still guards her master or husband with more attention than ever.

To foe of His -- I'm deadly foe --
None stir the second time --
On whom I lay a Yellow Eye --
Or an emphatic Thumb --

Now it gets forceful. Stanza 5 states that whoever dares challenge her man
must first deal with her. After all, she is his protector and he her
master. She demands attention by enforcing a vicious stare and a no
nonsense thumb. The "yellow eye" and "emphatic thumb" suggests the
hunter's aiming and the trigger finger, in relation to the gun.

Though I than He -- may longer live
He longer must -- than I --
For I have but the power to kill,
Without -- the power to die --

The most moving part is saved for the end. The narrator ends by saying
that though they both can live long, he must live longer than her because
she can't bear to live a day without him. You've heard of the saying "if
you live to be 100, I want to live to 100 minus 1 day"? This is the same
idea. The metaphor of the gun here comes around finally to state that it,
like her, has the capacity to kill, not to die (The gun can't die because
it's an inanimate object, and she can't speed up a natural death). At the
time Dickinson lived, women were known to have longer life expectancy than

Well, I hope that helped you and others who seem to be puzzled by the poem.
We all live with, essentially, one underlying purpose, consciously or
subconsciously, to find that one true love that completes us. A love that
we proudly claim as our own, and that who saved us, our owner. For me and
countless others, our lives are like loaded guns, incapable of sharing
ourselves for the owner has yet to arrive to claim us. We live on,
incomplete, yet continually yearn for that love that Dickinson could not
even find herself. She died without ever finding the love, she so vividly
portray in all her writings. It is a tragedy that she must suffer for us
to appreciate the mastery and vision of her genius.

Emily Dickinson is among the most romantic poets ever, though her works are
very subtle and tough. I hope you all enjoyed my thoughts on the poem.
Don't be hesitant to comment. Thanks and good luck!

Sunday 8:50PM July 31, 2005
New York

Han from United States
Comment 4 of 118, added on January 26th, 2005 at 6:40 AM.

This poem suggests to me a relationship, that is perhaps neglected. The
poem seems to be the journey of her usefulness to the 'owner'. Her
anticipation and desire to take part in life but this is tinged with doubt
and anxiety: "Though I than he - may longer live He must longer - than I -
" this suggests the desire to have support and the strength that she does
derive from him. Perhaps gien this it is a metaphor for the relationship
that she had with her father and, "the sovereign wood" the powerful places
he inhabited. Perhaps her use to her father as a means to crack and
alleviate animosity?

Rachel from United Kingdom
Comment 3 of 118, added on December 16th, 2004 at 2:31 AM.

I think this poem manifests much of her inner frustration and tensions, so
clearly represented in, 'it is as a vesuvian face/had let its pleasure
emily had a deep love for a certain individual(s) "my master" and "owner,"
who are mentioned throughout her poetry, perhaps more than one person?

either way, she desperately wishes to be by his side despite any hardships,
even fiercely defending him from any harm (overprotectiveness?)
this is a very romantic poem

she fantasizes over their journeys, and her deepest wish of her life; 'and
carried me away' refers to what she desires most, to escape

that is the metaphor of the loaded gun, and the corners of dark, where she
waits vigilantly 'till a day' when her love interest and her are together,
for that moment! (that do we not also wait for?)

sadly, from her biography, it seems her apparent introvertness and
reclusions seems to have impaired her hopes and dreams, confined to bitter

Abe from United States
Comment 2 of 118, added on November 19th, 2004 at 9:03 PM.

After a few readings of this poem it is clear that the speaker of this poem
is suppressing a lot of anger; hence, she is the loaded gun. Being a
loaded gun requires someone else to "release" the anger, and this outlet is
provided by the "Owner." A clear progression of her relationship, from her
inactivity until she is picked up by the Owner, is supportive of a concept
of interdependence between Master and servant- explained through her
speaking for him, her discharging and pleasure in doing so, her guarding of
him at night, her limited role and displeasure as a result- all contribute
to the power of this poem.

Ben Lee from United States
Comment 1 of 118, added on November 9th, 2004 at 1:42 PM.

I first came across this poem in my Intro. to Literature class. Our class
discussed it quite in depth, and I must say that at first I had quite a bit
of trouble understanding it. Yet as the class discussion evolved the
revelation and understanding of the poem hit me suddenly! The poem is
about the life of a gun, and it is the gun that is speaking. No one in my
class believed me and they continued to disect it. People may try to
attatch fancy metaphors to the poem, but it is still a simple and
straight-forward poem about the life of a gun.

Lisa from United States

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Information about My Life had stood -- a Loaded Gun --

Poet: Emily Dickinson
Poem: 754. My Life had stood -- a Loaded Gun --
Volume: Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson
Year: 1955
Added: Jan 9 2004
Viewed: 523 times

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