An Explication of Emily Dickinson's Loaded Gun Essay

An Explication of Emily Dickinson's Loaded Gun Essay

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An Explication of Emily Dickinson's "Loaded Gun"


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 structure of the poem is a common one for Dickinson, alternating iambic tetrameter and trimeter. These six quatrains are evocative of the verses from the Protestant religious services that Dickinson attended as a child but from which she chose to abstain as an adult. This meter gives the poem power and dignity, evoking the solemnity and unquestioned truth of a religious hymn.

The mix of masculine and feminine images, their juxtaposition, and their occasional transformation across the gender line mirrors and mimics 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 fourth line gives an image of the speaker being carried away, something usually perpetrated on a female by (usually) a male. This too is an ambiguous image: is she carried away by her own love- enraptured-or is she carried away against her will, to be defiled, and used against her will?

The second stanza resolves this question. Suddenly the speaker is "We," "roam[ing] in Sovreign [our] woods" (5), indicating an acceptance of the relationship. As an admirer of George Eliot, a woman who adopted a masculine identity in order to faci...


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...ability to destroy, she is "Without-the power to die-" (24). Again we see the passivity of the "Loaded gun-" (1), unable to act without some animating masculine force. Does she mean she has the power to destroy the poet within, but cannot then escape from the role of reclusive outsider she has sacrificed so much to attain? Or does she mean she can destroy anyone who wishes to take this "Master" from her, but cannot kill him herself, or end her own life-options she may have wished existed for her, considering the difficulties produced by her inability to fit in to society?

Although there is an irreconcilable ambiguity to this last stanza, the uncertainty somehow does not detract from the power of the work, but rather adds to it. With "Loaded Gun" Dickinson proclaims herself a warrior, ready to kill or die in defense of her self-definition, that of Poet.

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An Explication of Emily Dickinson's Loaded Gun Essay

- An Explication of Emily Dickinson's "Loaded Gun" 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....   [tags: Dickinson Loaded Gun Essays]

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