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A literal interpretation of dickinsons my life had stood a loaded gun

The speaker compares her life to an unused loaded gun and finds joy in fulfilling its purpose to kill. Even if you have never felt a rage so violent that you felt destructive or explosive, can you imagine what such a state must feel like? Does this poem convincingly portray such a rage?

  • Significance rests not in what the poem says but in what it leaves out, what it cannot get into its words and therefore into consciousness;
  • Critics have given this poem every variety of interpretation, almost none of them totally satisfactory;
  • The force of this poem strikes me every time I read it, and I am moved by it though its exact meaning eludes me;
  • She felt forced to practice her art privately, that is, she wrote her poetry privately and shared it with only a few family members and friends.

The force of this poem strikes me every time I read it, and I am moved by it though its exact meaning eludes me. For the critic David Porter, its message lies "in its very indefiniteness. Significance rests not in what the poem says but in what it leaves out, what it cannot get into its words and therefore into consciousness. In any event, I agree with Adrienne Rich's view of this poem: I think it is a poem about possession by the daemon, about the dangers and risks of such possession if you are a woman, about the knowledge that power in a woman can seem destructive, and that you cannot live without the daemon once it has possessed you.

I do not pretend to have--I don't even wish to have--explained this poem, accounted for its every image; it will reverberate with new tones long after my words about it have ceased to matter. But I think that for us, at this time, it is a central poem in understanding Emily Dickinson, and ourselves, and the condition of the woman artist, particularly in the nineteenth century.

  • Why are they dead?
  • The speaker prefers to stand guard over her Master rather than share a soft downy pillow; she rejects the softer life, the homelier alternative;
  • Often, there is a hidden or double meaning in the seemingly innocent words that are presented to an audience;
  • Another interpretation embraces a more classical alternative.

It seems likely that the nineteenth-century woman poet, especially, felt the medium of poetry as dangerous. Emily Dickinson's is the only poetry in English by a woman of that century which pierces so far beyond the ideology of the "feminine" and the conventions of womanly feeling. I will briefly discuss the view that this poem grows out of her anger at the narrow life allowed to Dickinson by her society and by her father.

  • The dash is in the middle of the line, which twists the meaning;
  • Her seemingly random capitalization, lack of punctuation or obsession with dashes, and incorrect use of grammar were all done deliberately, sometimes to highlight the message that would have otherwise gone unheeded;
  • Try reading this poem by feeling the larger impressions, don't worry about understanding or puzzling out every line and word.

She felt forced to practice her art privately, that is, she wrote her poetry privately and shared it with only a few family members and friends. To be able to dedicate herself to poetry, she withdrew into seclusion. It was a heavy price to pay to be a poet. This poem, with its slaughter and its "Vesuvian" voice, expresses her rage at the restrictions on the woman poet, her sense of the power of language, and the sense of control that writing poetry gave her.

Try reading this poem by feeling the larger impressions, don't worry about understanding or puzzling out every line and word. Analysis of Poem In the past, she "had" stood in the corner, without a purpose. Then a hunter found her, knew her purpose since he was her "Master," and used her to express her purpose.

The gun can be seen as language; the hunter's shooting-- the expression of the gun--is creating poetry. The "doe" female deer is hunted and presumably killed, just as women writers have to kill or suppress a part of themselves to write.

My life had stood—a Loaded Gun— Summary

Hunting in the wood re-establishes a relationship with nature, a frequent topic in Dickinson's poetry. It also gives a sense of control the Woods are "Sovereign". The speaker prefers to stand guard over her Master rather than share a soft downy pillow; she rejects the softer life, the homelier alternative. The speaker's purpose, power, and control are destructive and bring the her joy and satisfaction, until, perhaps, the last stanza.

The last stanza is difficult, tangled and perhaps indicates some confusion in Dickinson's thinking.