Emily Dickinson's Collected Poems

The Weakness of Companionship

Emily Dickinson's poem, “My Life Had Stood - A Loaded Gun,” explores grim themes found behind the romanticized perception of love. In the beginning of the work, Dickinson shows the headstrong and volatile nature of the speaker. A man chooses this woman and accompanies her intimately throughout their lives. She affirms that she feels fully content with this man, and as a result, she states that she is prepared to protect their relationship via any means necessary. Despite the speaker's apparent satisfaction, the last section of the piece reveals that she would rather die than live a lonely life without her partner. This poem illustrates that embracing love may beget traits of weakness such as dependency, jealousy, and obsession.

Dickinson's work introduces the speaker as a woman with a great deal of explosive potential. In the first stanza, she describes herself as a loaded gun sitting in the corner, remaining idle until the day she is claimed: “The Owner passed - identified -/And carried Me away -” (3-4). With these depictive details, the speaker initially exudes an aura of fortitude. However, upon closer examination, it can be argued that this woman is the host to a range of weaknesses. Dependency is the trait of...

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