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.
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.