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

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Comment 13 of 123, added on August 30th, 2007 at 3:15 AM.

There is a hidden, subversive anger.. the tone of which is not very direct,
for instance , like in Sylvia Plath's poetry. Emily Dickinson mocks at the
phallogocentric world.. where the man is the precursor and the deciding
factor to what a woman is supposed to do. The symbols of being a loaded gun
,also , a doe ... signify uselessness and the inner conflict felt as a
woman. Also, the symbol of dove is a very gentle, loving ,maiden symbol.

Sneha from India
Comment 12 of 123, added on June 4th, 2007 at 10:43 AM.

I think this poem is the best I ever read. Emily is telling us that she had
to freedom. She was trapped. She couldn't do her own thing. All she wanted
to do is write poetry, but she wan't good enough because she wan't a man. I
think this poem is the best she ever wrote. It really expresses how she

Lisa Green from Italy
Comment 11 of 123, added on May 31st, 2007 at 9:51 AM.

A great poem!

Comment 10 of 123, added on March 1st, 2007 at 11:19 AM.

Reading this poem, I really felt like I was feeling Emily's despair as she
writes. My Life Had Stood-- A Loaded Gun, just reading this sends so many
ideas to my mind. Always thinking, oh what will this poem bring? What does
this poet feel? After thinking about all the possibilities of what she was
trying to express, I read it. I honestly savered every word; it sank in and
I felt her emostions arise. I give Emily Dickinson my applaus!

Brieanna from United States
Comment 9 of 123, added on February 24th, 2006 at 12:38 PM.

Emily's poem "My life had stood--a Loaded Gun--" is a beautiful love poem.
She has finally met her "owner" and her "master." She wrote letters to her
"master." She saw women in subservient roles in her society. She lived in a
male based society. She is glowing, she is loving this experience. She had
become his protector, she has become his soul mate, if only for a while.
The poem personifies a gun. She is that gun. She has been allowed to
"shoot" with her words, and her words are those that will never die. The
poem may be an enigma, just like Emily, but that is the beauty of it.
Shakespeare had the same kind of obscurity. She had the genius of a
Shakespeare, a soul addmitted to itself. She was a loaded gun that went off
with her words and gave us beautiful insights into the soul and life. "A
thing of beauty is a joy forever..." and I would have to agree that many of
her poems are just that--things of beauty. "Loaded Gun" is just one of her
many "things of beauty."

Dick from United States
Comment 8 of 123, 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 123, 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 123, 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 123, 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 123, 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

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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: 1889 times

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