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Study Questions

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun – Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. We’ve been focusing on one possible interpretation of this poem. But only looking at one possible interpretation is kind of boring. What else do you think this poem could it be about?
  2. Why do you think Dickinson included the part about "Owner" and "Master"? Who or what owns whom? What’s the significance of that? If the speaker is somehow mastered by her "Owner," why does she still "guard" his head? Wouldn’t she want to get away from him? Would you? Why or why not?
  3. Pick out some of the capitalized words. Why might they be capitalized? Is there something about that word that makes capitalizing it turn it into something else? Something more? Something less?
  4. How might this poem be about women in general before feminism? It’s an extremely broad question, but what are some ways that the poem opens doors for criticism about male-female relationships in the 19th century? The 20th? Now?
  5. What is going on with the dashes? What effect do they have? Do they also add something to the poem? Why or why not?
  6. Can you read this poem as being about love, rather than anger? (The beauty of Dickinson is that her poetry can be interpreted in different ways. She said it herself in another poem: "Tell all the Truth but tell it slant.")

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