Home » Famous Female Writers of Victorian Era. Their Names, Works, Information » “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”: Critical Detailed Analysis And Summary

“My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”: Critical Detailed Analysis And Summary

The writer of the poem, “My life had stood a loaded gun”, Emily Dickinson was a leading author of the 19th century. She has firmly generated her position as an American poet attracting millions of hearts with her authentic and elegant bold verses which stands out as unique in front of the sphere.

The poem has been artistically designed by Dickinson depicting a woman who is under the control of a man equivalently drowsing with a loaded gun. The poem just like her other poetries lacks a title due to which the publishers or editors consider the first line as her poem’s title.

Images and Symbols used in My life had stood a loaded gun

Dickinson enables the audience to visualize several visionaries. The major insight is the visualization of a gun as it represents power and potentiality. For the speaker, potentiality helps her to hold and exist in the sphere energetically. Dickinson has also stretched the reference of Mount Vesuvius, the haunted imaginary of a ‘Doe’, and the appearance of a night. She describes the procedure of hunting throughout the “Sovereign Woods.”

Hunting or chasing someone is a very destructive sport that displays a person’s skill as well as anger. Although there are a number of interpretations of the verse and the readers should be ready to accept such while reading. The ‘Owner’ and the ‘Master’ is found standing for the God who is generally dictating the rules of a lover or maybe it is providing a shape to the speaker’s anger.

The poem is usually emphasizing the husband as the owner of the woman and the hidden potentiality that a woman possesses in her hidden phrases if proclaimed can equally destroy the pride and arrogance of a masculine society.

My life had stood a loaded gun: Summary

Emily Dickinson wonderfully designs her poem introducing a speaker artistically to enhance her imagery. The speaker addresses his life which felt like a loaded gun entirely unused and kept aside in a far corner. Suddenly, one fine day the owner of the gun tends to appear and while coming in it certainly noticed the speaker laying restlessly in a corner. Taking her away he became her owner and both of them wanders astonishingly outside in the greenery and woods for hunting a female deer.

As soon as the loaded gun is shot it echoed her voice back striking the mountains and it seems as if both of them have turned one where she is behaving out of his expectations. The speaker appears to smile after witnessing such instances which further initiated the light glow upon a vale just like a shine that appears due to the eruption of volcanic lava. After the entire hectic day comes to an end and darkness wraps around the society, she keeps an eye on him protecting her master and imagining the duty to be more sublime and aesthetic than sleeping with him sharing the same pillow. S

he turns dangerous for her master’s enemies as she kills them at very first glance. They look frightfully into the barrel of her gun and she keeps her aim intact. The poem concludes with an important message of belonging where the speaker is well aware of the fact that she might live longer in this sphere than her owner but he has to outlive her as she only has the power and potentiality to kill lacking a major artistic power to die.

My life had stood a loaded gun: Analysis

In the poem “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”, Emily Dickinson graciously begins the poem by calling one of her prominent cards and a dash delicately separating the phrase “My Life had stood” from the “Loaded Gun” which turns her poem complicated and she has willingly designed the verse in such a way for enabling her lines to sound bolder and more authentic but difficult to interpret. Such a practice is referred to as parataxis.

The speaker initially addresses that her life has got stuck and “had stood” on an edge just like a “Loaded Gun.” The first stanza of the poem is trying to uphold the situation of the speaker who has undergone separation from her own existence and zooming on her previous form, she begins to consider it as her force eventually upholding life as a natural force that cannot be possessed easily by anyone.

The imaginative view of a gun that is loaded discloses the one who is not afraid of speaking the original dictates neglecting its outcome equivalently.

Neither the gun is active nor passive but her life subsisted in a purgatorial room till the time something new happened. But then a day arrived when the ‘Owner’ suddenly passes by and the reason is entirely unclear when certainly both the ‘Owner’ and the ‘Life’ identifies each other and lethargically the ‘Life’ will be drifted away. Thus, the separation between the life and her aesthetic speaker took place in the fourth line of the poem itself.

Now she begins to elaborate on the description of the two of them. When the readers try to interpret who the ‘Owner’ is, it is mostly identified as the speaker’s husband who has extreme power and influence in the world to shift the life of the speaker from a certain corner.

In the second stanza, Dickinson very efficiently addresses the relation between the owner or husband and the female speaker. As they both have picked each other, they can now easily “roam in Sovereign Woods” together. This stanza can be interpreted in several ways but mostly it is being described as enabling the speaker to enter into the sphere of male domination where she is forced to reside upon as she was suggested to “hunt the doe.”

A doe is nothing but a female deer which is a major distinction over here. Her participation in a sphere of male-dictated customs enables her to observe and realize the destruction caused by the men in the life of a female. Every time the speaker speaks for him or calls him by firing a gun or her choice of words in the male-centric sphere, she has to confront “The Mountains” and they apparently reach back with either an echo or a reply but that was a reflection back of her voice itself and nothing else.

Thus, her voice fails to bring an impact on the world rather it went entirely ignored and society later taunts her with a reply for being egotistical and arrogant.

Proceeding to the third stanza Dickinson keeps on reminding the power and the existence of the gun in her poem which reminds the readers, especially of its function and a social place for a woman to live in. The speaker describes her external beauty and further enhances her elegant smile which generates the “cordial light” to glow “Upon the Valley.”

The reference to mountains in the poem depicts her stepping back from the words which are assertive in the second stanza cordially returning to the men who are masked and devoid of any emotion. In the concluding lines, she chooses to grin rather than just allowing the “Vesuvian face” go through otherwise if she would have chosen the latter then additionally her pleasure would appear in the formulation of a volcanic rage which would have further calcified on a vale instead.

A day appears in the life of husband and wife where we find the speaker turning in gradually for an astounding night heading for a better day. The wife with the loaded gun remains adjacent to him “Master’s Head” and throughout the night the gun keeps on guarding the master while he is asleep, the speaker explains such a scenario as she is an essential component for his rest than “Elder Duck’s/Deep Pillow.”

This stanza successfully marks her departure from the traditional social life of a spouse, as being a wife according to the dictated customs she must have been sharing a pillow with her partner rather than placing herself close to her head probably taking support on the wall. The line addressed by Dickinson about the “Elder Duck” refers to a type who usually pulls her feathers o construct a nest.

In one way it destroys itself to build a sense of belonging and comfort. The speaker of Dickinson especially sets away all the elements that help her to behave like a wife in order to upgrade her bearings.

Dickinson in the fifth stanza upholds her most violent imagery describing how a person must “foe of his” tentatively behaving the same with others. She must pull out her deadly sight by using the loaded gun to pour out a few words of her choice to knock down the arrogance of the male-dominated sphere further.

The readers while reading the stanza might come across a question of whether the speaker is consecutively going to have a new occurrence from becoming his deadly sport for she is slowly allowing her conversion to a deadly element for her husband.

Triggered by such an “emphatic thumb” and with an emergence of the yellow colour appearing after the explosion from the barrel the gun might have turned off or it can also be considered as the speaker’s mere opinions and conceptions about the world. When the “Vesuvian Face” connects, the third stanza of the poem tends to become powerful.

The sixth stanza appears to be more complex where we find the speaker mourning over further existence and how she is going to survive enduring him. This is the reason behind her still remaining personified and incorporated as a gun which does not allow her to live her life happily as her usage of words depends on the nature of the human soul. She also says that he must exist longer than her for immortalizing her chosen terms equally publicizing them and making all of them available for other bibliophiles to read.

She finally concludes the poem by portraying her major actions taken as a gun or a writer of life. Dickinson wonderfully ends the poem with an exotic statement where her speaker states that you may kill someone but your actions should never be taken back. She is apparently happy for outliving her ‘Owner’ in the poem but she would not mind dying before him proportionately.

The relationship between both of them is not exactly one-sided but the beloved throughout the poem remains like a passive participant in such an imaginative cycle of the game of zeal. She does not have any desire to form a physical connection with him rather she has already become tired and frustrated with obeying his norms and fulfilling his expectations as a result all her hope of acting has disappeared with only an unused potentiality to kill the enemies but devoid of any freedom to die, accepting a life of immortality.

My life had stood a loaded gun: Literary Device

Emily Dickinson has logically induced several literary devices which helped her to frame the poem wonderfully. The writers use such tools to maintain the rhythm and mood of the poem. This poem is composed of six stanzas comprising four lines in each which is known as a quatrain following the ABCD rhyming scheme.

She has applied assonance which has enabled her to create a repetition of similar vowel sounds. For Example- the usage of certain letters like (I or of or in), in “And do I smile, such cordial light” produces the perfect repetition of sounds.

Enjambment does not end at the breakage of any line rather it initiates all readers to shift their interest to the next line.

For Example- “And do I smile, such cordial light

Upon the Valley glow – “

Anaphora implies a continuous repetition of expression or certain words in the first part of the verse following the alliteration which is also a continuous reiteration occurring in the same sentence for a rapid accession.

Therefore, with the help of numerous poetical devices, Dickinson has been successful in reflecting all her imaginations framing it logically and innovatively giving it an astonishing appearance that is difficult to understand but aesthetic to look at.


What are the major themes of the poem ‘My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun’ by Emily Dickinson?

There are several themes depicted by Emily Dickinson in the poem which include power, gender, the relationship between humanity, and God, and the power and potentiality of creativity.

What is the structure of the poem ‘My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun‘ designed by Emily Dickinson?

Dickinson artistically portrays ABCD rhyming scheme. She incorporates a term like the “loaded gun” which has been addressed as a metaphor as she kept on recounting a powerless existence just before the owner’s appearance in the poem.

What is the answer to the mountains in line number eight of Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun’?

The echoing back of the gunshot that is returning back of the speaker’s own words to her after striking the mountains is the answer to the mountains.