Emily Dickinson’s “My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun”

For this post I wanted to take the time to speak on one of my favorite poems. “My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun” is an amazing poem by Emily Dickinson through which she compares her life (or the unknown narrator) to something concrete and deadly as a loaded gun.

From reading and rereading this poem I’ve come to develope an idea that the narrator is not speaking from the perspective of a gun herself, instead the gun is a metaphor for their life through which is mistaken as unimportant.

Through a few interpretations I have heard, some find the narrator to be a gun itself, handled by a male and speaking of their journey together. When I read the poem I visualize a helpless female narrator being consumed by the power her husband has over her. Emily Dickinson, living in a time of great female suffrage, may have written this poem as a way to show the treatment women go through while expected to always do what they’re told, and the true power women have.

The image of being a loaded gun is a strong reference to the discrimination women face on a daily basis while expected to remain silent–only to raise their voice when the time is appropriate. However, women all have the ability to fire their shots, propel their bullets, and cause chaos to prove their worth equal or over men, but instead stay confined within their being–swallowing their ability to be heard and instead carry on with their lives as normal–at the hand of their husband.

This poem can definately be viewed in many different ways; when my Modern Poetry class examplined this poem we had an hour long discussion about the endless possibilities of who the narrator was and the significance of the gun, along with the amazing last line “For I have but the power to kill, / without–the power to die–”

The lives of women are infact a “loaded gun,” ready to take aim and fire whenever they feel belittled or used. Emily Dickinson’s representation of the female life in this poem may be ahead of it’s time when creating an image of female protest, however, that does not mean she was unaware of the need for equality and the true strength of women.


“My Life Had Stood a Loaded Gun” ~ Emily Dickinson

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

In Corners – till a Day

The Owner passed – identified –

And carried Me away –


And now We roam in Sovereign Woods –

And now We hunt the Doe –

And every time I speak for Him

The Mountains straight reply –


And do I smile, such cordial light

Upon the Valley glow –

It is as a Vesuvian face

Had let it’s pleasure through –


And when at Night – Our good Day done –

I guard My Master’s Head –

’Tis better than the Eider Duck’s

Deep Pillow – to have shared –


To foe of His – I’m deadly foe –

None stir the second time –

On whom I lay a Yellow Eye –

Or an emphatic Thumb –


Though I than He – may longer live

He longer must – than I –

For I have but the power to kill,

Without – the power to die –


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