My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun

Categories: Life

Emily Dickinson’s “My Life had actually stood – a Crammed Weapon” is a powerful poem that takes into consideration various thematic expressions. Its comprehensiveness in brevity is another necessary feature of this poem. It represents power and unconventional feminist urges on the art of the poetess. In this poem, Emily Dickinson discovers an instrument appropriate enough to render her requirement for fulfillment through absolute commitment to love’s service. The poem begins with a dazzling conceit.

Merged from the uncertain abstraction of life and the specific concretion of packed weapon, it expresses the charged potential of the person who stays inactive until “identified” into a mindful vitality.

And after hat recognition, we observe the start of a brand-new poem i. e. the start of a brand-new life. Historically, it was written in age when American society was torn with civil war. The sign that Emily Dickenson has actually used is an essence of an experience. It is rather obvious that a universal insight that the poet attempts to express in not gotten simply by creative roaming, it is based upon concrete experiences.

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Emily Dickinson provides the exact same insight into the historic experiences of her time. The really first verse symbolizes the paradox of finding oneself through losing oneself. It is rendered in the poem by one word: identity is declared when someone claimed the gun as her own. The American civil war was also the process of finding ones own identity by losing ones own identity. The internal rivalries and minor identities were to be eliminated to attain a nationwide reconciliation.

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This national reconciliation ultimately brought the nationwide identity.

Although this process was on stop and remained “in corners” for many decades till a day came. Now they “wander in Sovereign Woods”. So Emily Dickinson has represented a nationwide experience. Now this “weapon” is “foe of His – I’m fatal foe”. “His can be described in different connotations. “His” is emblem of nation state that is fully sovereign. “His” is an integrated society or the one who longs to be integrated after the pathos and torments of Civil war. Poetess further highlight that “None stir the 2nd time -/ whom I lay a Yellow Eye -/ an emphatic Thumb”.

All these gestures are for those who are internal or external antagonists to the new national experience. This poem has also captivated the feminist attention who has given it a new evaluative dimension. Some critics are of the view that thorough this poem, Emily has tried to present a woman that she was not primarily in the second half of the 19th century whereas other feminist critics holds the view that poem totally negates the feminine qualities and the main metaphor considers “everything [that]”woman” is not: cruel not pleasant, hard not soft, emphatic not weak, one who kills not one who nurtures.

” (Bennet, 1986) But Emily Dickinson has provided a framework of power i. e. feminine power and established certain pattern on which women power can grow and has shown certain direction where women power can direct itself. It must be kept in mind that all the action verbs in the poem are not destructive or of insidious nature. It expresses powers to “hunt” “speak” “smile” “guard” and “kill”. So this power has paradoxical nature and a balance mix of these powers is necessary as shown and done by Emily Dickinson.

Furthermore, Miss Dickinson does show a longing for deadliness but in actuality it is only for safeguarding. Wrath is a part of her being but she does not let it go if not invoked or incited. So her aggression and anger and the consequences as a result of it (killing and deaths) are not unwomanly but are an extension of her very personality. These feelings are not uncommon but are surely unpredictable. In the second half of the poem, she is only providing guard to one who has helped her to get rid of her alienation and had blessed her with intimacy.

Here Emily Dickinson seems conventional in her feminist approach that a woman can do everything unwomanly for the one who is her companion in true sense of the word. Christine Miller (1987) says in this regard that “In the second instance, the speaker prefers guarding the master to having shared his pillow, that is, to having shared intimacy with him–primarily sexual, one would guess from the general structure of the poem. ” On the other hand, this poem expresses the agonies of a female poet that was restricted by her family and society to a narrow life devoid of any intellectual and/or literary independence.

These social and familial compulsion produced rashness in Emily’s attitude. She was forced to produce art in seclusion and to it keep to herself only. So language becomes her only mean and tool to bear the torments of her intellectual beings. She embodies language as gun and is of the view that this loaded gun accompanied with her literary beings is fatal for socio-cultural compulsion against women. It provided her a sense of power and control. She further eulogizes language and considers it a safeguard to her literary being.

And her language is enemy to al those traditions, norms, people and things who are against her poetical endeavors. This poem can further illustrate the conflicts between two classes with their interest. Although this conflict is not materialistic or monetary but it exists in the socio-cultural domain. One class adheres to the conventions and does not allow female members to express their view on any issue especially in the form of poetry whereas other lass are comprised of the intellectual beings who consider it their right to create and disseminate their thoughts and ideas in the literary form.

This poem symbolizes the struggle of the latter class and demonstrates that they are more powerful than the convention-ridden society. The poem starts with an individual quest for his/her identity but it changed into a capitalized “We”. Now the concern of the poetess is no more individualistic and sentimental, rather it has been transformed into something collective, societal and concrete. The identities have been mingled up with each other. Both owner and the “owned” perform the same masculine activities.

They are no more individual but become a part of the larger whole i. e. society. Overall the poem captures a variety of themes through various thematic expressions. Although the conclusion is disturbing but it has relevance to the thematic expressions as it tries to resolve the problem initiated in the first half. Powerlessness or even fear of that is death to the poetess has no other option but “to die” without powerlessness. Last stanza is not a moralistic commentary but is identification of a wider truth.

Bennett, Paula. My Life a Loaded Gun: Dickinson, Plath, Rich, and Female Creativity. Boston: Beacon Press. 1986. Gilbert, Sandra M & Gubar, Susan. The madwoman in the attic: the woman writer and the nineteenth-century literary imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1979. Miller, Christanne. Emily Dickinson, a poet’s grammar. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press. 1987. Smith, Martha Nell & Loeffelholz, Mary. A companion to Emily Dickinson. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pubishers. 2008.

“My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun – ” Feminist Analysis

This poem was written by the American poet Emily Dickinson around the year 1863. It is probably one of the most complex of all Dickinson’s poems because it does not have a single coherent and satisfactory interpretation. This is due to the fact that it exemplifies her technique of the ‘omitted centre’, a device by which the author omits information that is crucial to the understanding of the poem. Nevertheless, the aim of the present paper is not to discuss the manifold possible interpretations of the poem. Its aim is rather to try to explain it or analyze it from a feminist point of view, highlighting how it gives an image of a woman different from the one people are used to, as well as how it inverts the gender roles but accepting them at the same time. The speaker starts by presenting herself as “a Loaded Gun”, that is as a mortal weapon capable of killing and destroying.

This can be understood as the poet’s rejection of the traditional ideas and images about femininity, she is portraying herself as strong and potentially active in opposition to the common ideas of weakness and passivity associated with women. Later on, in the third stanza, she will compare herself to a volcano, turning the possibility of destruction – a contingent fact up until that point – into a reality. So now she is not only telling the reader that she can be active, dangerous, and destructive, but she is actually being it: the previous threat is now an event.

This image of the volcano is even more important because it is a common one, used also by Emerson – one of her greatest influences – to refer to the poet. The difference is that whereas in Emerson’s essay The Poet it is a rather benignant image – this of the volcano – used to portray the poet as a power of nature; in Dickinson’s poem it is a burning and destructive force. With this change in the meaning or connotation of the metaphor, she may be telling us that creation, carried out by a woman, is at the same time an act of aggression. This idea is closely related to the reading many feminists have made of this poem, seeing it as an example of how power in a woman can be seen as a danger or even a threat.

As for the gender roles one may argue that there is a contradiction in this poem. On the one hand she depicts herself as the active force in her relationship with her “Owner” and “Master”. She speaks “for Him”; she fights for him and defends him from Salceda 2 his foes. It is important to notice how in the fourth stanza she guards his head while he sleeps, thus preferring or putting her role as defender before her role as lover, i.e. her masculine role before of her feminine role. It is better to kill for him than to lay with him. In this poem she is the “knight in armor” while the male is, as to say, the “damsel in distress”. But on the other hand, the reader is told at the beginning that her “Life had stood – a Loaded Gun – / In Corners” until her “Owner passed” and “identified” her.

That is, she had no identity of herself; she did not exist as an individual endowed with consciousness until he found her. It is also important to notice that the vocabulary used in the first stanza depicts her as an object. Therefore all her representations of herself as the leading figure in the poem, the strong one, the powerful one are, in some way, undermined by the fact that, at the beginning, she is just an object endowed with subjectivity by a real and pre-existent subject – the male character – who then becomes an object himself. The idea that her subjectivity is only one borrowed from him can be clearly seen in that, throughout the poem, her only goal is to defend him, to protect him form his foes who are at the same time hers. Nonetheless, this dependence on a male subject is, if not denied, at least overcome in the last stanza where the speaker presents herself as immortal. Thus, if she will live long before he has died, her existence must be independent of his.

If the last part of my analysis seems confusing and even contradictory, it is because the poem itself, as it has already been said at the beginning, is confusing and even contradictory. To sum up I would like to say that, from my point of view, the important point about this poem is how Dickinson’s attempt to break up with the traditional ideas of womanhood and gender roles, since it is based upon the traditional opposition between femininity/masculinity, passivity/activity, object/subject, proves itself in some way “futile”. One may notice that she is not defending femininity, or trying to posit it higher or at the same level than masculinity, but what she is doing is taking a male position.

This may explain why she takes her identity from a man. She is opposing the fact that being a woman entails being passive and defenseless, but at the same time she is saying that her aggressive character appeared only after a man identified her. So, she is not pulling down the differences or the hierarchy existing between male and female, but interchanging the roles. Nevertheless, one should not think that Dickinson’s poem is a failure – from a feminist point of view –, but on the contrary it is a success, since she manages to highlight the difficulty, or even impossibility, of writing at the same time Salceda 3 from and against a preestablished language and a system of thought, which are the very bases of the discrimination of women.

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My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun. (2017, Jan 28). Retrieved from

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun

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