My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun
3 Pages 802 Words
Emily Dickinson’s poem "My Life had stood—a Loaded Gun—" is a powerful statement of the speaker’s choice to forego the accepted roles of her time and embrace a taboo existence, a life open only to men. The speaker does so wholeheartedly and without reservation, with any and all necessary force, exulting in her decision. She speaks with great power and passion, tolerating no interference, and wills herself to maintain this choice for her entire life.
The mix of masculine and feminine images, their juxtaposition, and their occasional transformation across the gender line, is inherent in the message of the poem. The opening stanza begins with a series of masculine images: "a Loaded gun" (1), "The Owner" (3—later identified as "He"—17, 21). The ambiguous image of the fourth lineis her being carried away by her own love to be — enraptured— or defiled.The second stanza resolves this question. Suddenly the speaker is "We," "roam in Sovreign woods" (5), indicating an acceptance of the relationship.
Now the speaker resumes alternation between images suggestive of gender: masculine— "hunt" (6), "Mountains" (8), "Vesuvian" (11), "Day" (13),—and feminine— "woods" (5), "the Doe" (6), "Valley" (10), "Night" (13), "the Eider-Duck’s / Deep Pillow" (15-16). There is a further mingling of gender images in the first stanza: the masculine gun as a passive (i.e., feminine) instrument, standing in a corner, awaiting the masculine empowerment. Likewise, the "cordial light / Upon the Valley glow" (9-10), constitutes a soft, feminine image, until the next line reveals the glow is from a volcanic eruption- an extremely masculine image. This mixture and blurring of sexual cues reflects the message of the poem, the speaker’s adoption of a role crossing gender lines but still being impotent to an extent. While there is very little rhyming in this poem, one rhyme stands out: "Doe"...
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