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My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun –

by Emily Dickinson

Violence Theme

"My Life had stood" is all about our speaker’s relationship to violence. Without knowing what it is that the speaker would kill, and without knowing exactly what would kill her, we know for sure that the speaker is wrestling with her own power and with the idea that she is capable of taking life away. Spurring this violence is anger. When you think of violence, you probably think of a punch in the face, and you wouldn’t be wrong. However, violence can come in many different forms. There’s spiritual violence, psychological violence, emotional violence – anything that can count as "abuse." Violence is not always physical, so it doesn’t necessarily leave a scar you can see. More often than not, it’s more complicated than it appears.

Questions About Violence

  1. Is violence good, bad, or somewhere in between in this poem?
  2. According to this poem, how is violence a sign of courage?
  3. How is violence a sign of weakness?
  4. Does violence hurt the one being violent? If so, how?
  5. How is writing an act of violence?

Chew on This

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

The speaker seems to destroy things outside of herself with violence when, in reality, she is self-destructive.

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