Study Guide

My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun – Gender

By Emily Dickinson


We don't know whether the speaker is a man or a woman in "My Life had stood," but there are certain clues in this poem that suggest a conflict between male and female identities. For example, the pronouns in the poem are all male pronouns (him, his, and he). And we know that a doe (the animal the speaker hunts) is a female deer. The exact meaning of this poem might be obscure, but we can be pretty sure that there’s a conflict between masculinity and femininity.

Questions About Gender

  1. Why is "The Owner" male?
  2. Is this poem about male dominance?
  3. Is this poem about female dominance?
  4. How does gender play into issues of power in the poem?

Chew on This

The female speaker is the slave of the male "Master," allegorizing the chauvinistic society of Dickinson’s time.

Dickinson’s speaker is a powerful woman who is in no way oppressed by the male presence in the poem.