Emily Dickinson is a poet known for her cryptic, confusing language. Words are often put together in an unusual way and create deciphering difficulties for the reader. But behind all the confusion is a hidden meaning that becomes clear, and one realizes that all the odd word choices were chosen for a specific reason. The poem I will try to analyze is My Life Had Stood—A Loaded Gun, or number 754. I find this to be one of her most difficult poems to decode. However, I find the images fascinating and the last stanza very confusing but intriguing. What I first thought the poem was about and what I finally came to a conclusion on are two completely different thoughts. Through answering questions on the poem’s literary elements, thorough analysis of the words, and rewriting the poem in my own words, I came to the conclusion that the poem is about a person who was taken on a journey with someone who saw something in her that was unrealized by anyone else, and the narrator clung to that person through their time together.
First, I will take apart the poem in terms of its use of literary elements. The diction of the poem is abstract and vague, in that it’s hard for the reader to easily understand what the narrator is really talking about. Dickinson uses particular, specific words for description: for example, in stanza four, when talking about a pillow the bird Eider-Duck is mentioned. She could have just said a duck’s or goose’s feathers, but she specifically writes Eider-Duck, which I found out is a fowl known for it’s fluffy feathers (hence the appropriate connection to the pillow). Dickinson also uses the word ‘sovereign’ when talking about the woods the narrator an...
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... because she was simply too shy to step out—and then one day someone noticed her for the first time and saw all she had to offer. The rest of the poem is about their journeys together and the relationship that builds between the two of them. Maybe it’s the first real relationship with the opposite gender, so she is unsure how to act, and become jealous of the other “does,” and willing to put him before herself (such as watching over him at night).
As shown, Emily Dickinson’s cryptic language and literary elements make for an interesting, yet sometimes confusing, poem. Her words and ideas, mixed with her sense of rhythm and rhyme, work together to produce poetic pieces that are of the highest quality. While the meaning of this poem can be debated—and one’s opinion of the meaning can change over time and with many re-readings—it is still a fascinating piece.
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