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
- Is violence a source of power?
- In what ways do gender roles serve as sources of power in the poem?
- What might Dickinson mean by "the power to die"?
- What gives her the power to kill?
- Taking into account her reference to a volcano ("Vesuvian"), how is a volcano both with and without power?
- How is poetic genius a form of power? How does the poem relate to power?
Chew on This
The speaker’s anger makes her feel very powerful; however, without it, she is confronted with her own weakness.