My Life Had Stood - A Loaded Gun || Summary and Analysis

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My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun-
In Corners - till a Day
The Owner passed-identified-
And carried Me away-

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods-
And now We hunt the Doe-
And every time I speak for Him-
The Mountains straight reply-

And do I smile, such cordial light
Upon the Valley glow
It is as a Vesuvian face
Had let its pleasure through-

And when at Night - Our good Day done-
I guard My Master's Head-
Tis better than the Eider-Duck's
Deep Pillow - to have shared

The foe of His - I'm deadly foe
None stir the second time-
On whim I lay a Yellow Eye-
Or an emphatic Thumb-

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-

'My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun' is an even more difficult poem, ending with what is probably the most difficult stanza in any of Dickinson's major poems. Defiantly joyous in tone - at least on the surface-until its almost tragic final stanza, this poem presents an allegory about the pursuit of personal identity and fulfillment through love, and yet it is quite possible that the joy of the poem conceals a satire directed back against the speaker, a satire which may be the chief clue to the meaning of the last stanza.
My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun

Summary and Analysis

Introduction:

      'My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun' is an even more difficult poem, ending with what is probably the most difficult stanza in any of Dickinson's major poems. Defiantly joyous in tone - at least on the surface-until its almost tragic final stanza, this poem presents an allegory about the pursuit of personal identity and fulfillment through love, and yet it is quite possible that the joy of the poem conceals a satire directed back against the speaker, a satire which may be the chief clue to the meaning of the last stanza. The poem that figures violence as firearms, and concludes with an ambiguous measuring of the power to kill against the power to die.

Summary:

      The speaker experiences herself as full of potential, loaded but ignored and static, motionless, unnoticed, in corners. The capitalized Owner brings identity, time itself, motion, and purpose to the gun. For the next three stanzas, the relationship is celebrated, and yet we wonder at each line about the quality of experience that appears to bring joy.

      In the stanza I The poet presents an allegory about the pursuit of persona identity and fulfillment through love. Her life is shown as a loaded gun, filled with emotional force and sensitivity, but forsaken in a pawnshop waiting for redemption. The owner must produce his ticket in order to take her along with him.

     In stanza II She is now to play the role of a passive force that only he can release from a inert life. She now feels fulfillment in love and is searching for game and things of beauty like Doe. There is relationship is not one-sided, for he needs her destructive power. Without her the hunter is incomplete, but now his slightest touch causes her to explode and command mountains for him.

      In the second stanza, the plural and capitalized 'We' that has the freedom of roaming, so different from motionless confinement in a corner, implies an equality between gun and owner. But this claim of equality is denied not only by the nature of the analogy - a gun, after all, is the mere instrument of the mark's man will. The speaker is a dummy, though she does not or will not understand this, for this stanza and the next emphasize a sense of power.

      Stanzas III-V emphasize the pleasure she gives him, the protection she renders him at night, and the revenge she wreaks upon his enemies. Stanza III shows that something is happening. The life-gun is beginning to speak in relation to itself for the face which 'shows through' the gun must flash of firing, and thus the owner gets lost for a moment as if the gun can pull its own trigger. Stanza IV shows suggests that their hunting is at the end. She further expresses her desire to guard his bed rather than share its physical pleasure. Stanza V shows that the gun mindlessly accepts the master's foes as its own

      Stanza VI shows that the poem's joy, or pretended joy, comes to an end. The Speaker thinks that she may outlive the owner-lover, but she knows that in some sense she cannot. The lines appear to contradict one another completely. The cation that the speaker-gun has 'but the power to kill' undercuts the earlier celebration of her power. Clearly, her celebrating that power as something good is son. The power to kill, the, does not give identity, and its satisfactions are misleading. The last line presents an absolute paradox. The speaker-gun's inability to die will make the owner-lover outlive her.

      This shows that at death he has a chance for spiritual salvation and immortality. But his domination has so exhausted her spirit that she is lifeless and inert without his love. She must remain passive and unfulfilled, abandoned in a pawn shop with only the unused power to kill, but without the right to die into immortal life. These final lines introduce a spiritual perspective to catch of her doomed life.

      The poem's joy, or pretended joy, dissolves in the last stanza. The speaker thinks that she may outlive the owner-lover, but she knows that in some sense she cannot.

Interpretation and Critical Analysis

Dynamic of Power and Subservience:

      The poem analyses the dynamics of power and subservience. It can be read as a critique of the male-identified woman who has achieved power by complicity with male power. Dickinson's poem exposes this position as but another form of non- being: 'I have but the power to kill, \ Without-the power to die'. She cannot die because she is not alive; she is the instrument of the Master. She is his creature; she speaks for him and at his instigation. Full of incipient power, woman is a loaded gun that dwells in corners until she given identity. However she is carried away by the new form of subservience. She is used for the purposes he appoints and his prove to be deadly pursuits; they specifically 'hunt the Doe'; the woman is complicit in acts of violence against her own sex. In this poem the speaker is complicit is maintaining male authority; her subservience gives him power.

Personal Elements:

      This poem is perhaps her best poetic statement about the explosive changes that passion wrought on her emotions. Her life is described like a loaded gun, full of emotional force and sensitivity waiting for redemption. The owner has to show his identity in order to carry her away. So their fated love casts her in the role of a passive force that only he can from the an inactive life. Their relationship is not completely unilateral, for he needs her destructive power. Without her the hunter is incomplete, but now his slightest touch causes her to explode and command mountains for him. She wants to guard his bed rather than share its physical pleasure.

Love Relationship:

      The relationship between the lover and the beloved is not entirely one-sided. The beloved remains a passive participant in this game of love. She is not desirous of forming any physical relationship. She feels totally tired of repeatedly fulfilling his demand and has lost her will to act. She must remain passive and unfulfilled abandoned in a pawn shop with only the unused power to kill, but without the right to die into immortal life.

Religious Implications:

      The poem is also about God and there is certainly a theological feel at the edges of some of these lines. The poem is devotional in many ways. It stresses the need of giving up oneself to a religious ideal.

Use of Conceits:

      The central conceit of a loaded gun shows a potential, inert force, one with explosive power, which can be released by another. The concept of the active male hunter possessing the passive woman guides the whole poem. Once she leaves, she reverts to her inactive gun state.

Symbolic Use of Language:

      The life-gun is language shot off, creatively, to describe the world; the hunting of the second stanza is not to be taken literally but as a capturing of meaning, which is what language does, It hunts the doe by describing it. Dickinson often described the greatness of language and poetry in violent terms. The violence of poetry is really creative.

Annotations:

'My' - stands for the speaker who stands for a female in this poem.
'Loaded Gun' - it refers to the speaker who is filled with energy
'In Corner' - The speaker is leading a life of isolation. She feels totally ignored and is not involved in any activity.
'Owner' - it stands for the nameless lover or hunter.
'Identified' - recognised. The lover gives meaning to her life by recognizing her potential and eagerly took her away.
'Roam' - move about in a free and relaxed manner.
'Sovereign Woods' - romantic haunting places for love making. It is an enchanting atmosphere. Doe-female deer which is being hunted.
'The Vesuvian face' - suggests the speaker's sexual release being read into landscape, and perhaps also the joy on the face of the lover.
'The yellow eye' and 'emphatic thumb' - Suggest that the speaker is aware of something demeaning in her dependent, destructive, and self-denigrating role.
'Cordial light' - refers to the gun's flash , which is as if a volcanic erupts Glow-shown.
'Guard' - protect.
'I Guard my Master's Head' - She expresses her desire to protect the bed of her master.
'Foe' - enemy.
'Emphatic thumb' - dominating thumb.

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