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My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –


by Emily Dickinson

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun – Theme of Power

Power is influence. A guy with a gun has a lot of power, or at least thinks he does. A leader with public speaking skills has power. Power is always a two-sided equation. Something or someone has power over someone or something else. That is, a king without a kingdom isn’t very kingly. Our speaker’s life is like a gun, and so we know that she has power. Our speaker is the one in control of language in this poem, and so she has a certain power over us. However, the scary thing about being in power is that it can be taken away at a moment’s notice. We watch our speaker struggle to gain control throughout this poem, and we watch her serve a far more powerful "Owner" and "Master" by guarding him as he sleeps.

Questions About Power

  1. Is violence a source of power?
  2. In what ways do gender roles serve as sources of power in the poem?
  3. What might Dickinson mean by "the power to die"?
  4. What gives her the power to kill?
  5. Taking into account her reference to a volcano ("Vesuvian"), how is a volcano both with and without power?
  6. How is poetic genius a form of power? How does the poem relate to power?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker’s anger makes her feel very powerful; however, without it, she is confronted with her own weakness.

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