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My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

by Emily Dickinson

Stanza VI Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 21-24

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 –

  • These four lines make up a tricky stanza, so let’s pull it apart.
  • Paraphrased, it reads, "Though I might live longer than him, he must live longer than me, because with him I have the power to kill, and without him, the power to die."
  • If we treat the "he/him" as anger or rage, then the stanza makes sense.
  • Though the speaker might outlive her anger, her anger also gives her power – the "power to kill."
  • These lines also imply invincibility, because without her anger, she is left with the power to die. This suggests that she is somehow immortal when equipped with her anger.
  • On a less extreme level, anger can make us feel powerful and courageous, ready to lash out in our own defense. Without anger, there is a danger of becoming shy, of losing your nerve, of not standing up for yourself.
  • Another interpretation is that the power to die is a quality of living things; thus, since she "is" a gun, this is a continuation of the extended gun metaphor.

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