Emily Dickinson’s poetry is classified by editors as poems about nature, love, death, religion and others. Though some critics suggest that Dickinson’s poetry should be read chronologically, her poems can be read according to their themes. Since she was the daughter of a preacher her poems are often about God and Christianity, and in some of her love poems it is not certain if she is expressing her love for an actual lover or her spirituality. However, at one point of her life the poet stopped going to church and started satirizing Christian beliefs. Also, Dickinson isolated herself and emphasized her isolation by dressing in white. Her seclusion is present as a motif in some love poems. The death of her father, and nephew, led to an absolute seclusion and these deaths were probably the reason for the darker tone in her later poetry. Biographers have tried to find the source of this passion and intensity that is found in Emily Dickinson’s poems but there is an enigma when it comes to her love life. They have wondered when and how she encounterd these lovers, was the love reciprocated and how strong the feelings were. Dickinson seemed to have several passionate relationships but it is a fact that she remained unmarried. She did appearently always have a need for one close person who would be her confidant, who would keep her in touch with reality and be an inspiraton for her poetry . In Emily Dickinson’s poetry love can cause an exilirating rush of passion, or leave her with a hollow sense of deprivation, sometimes she questions love, touches various subject matters such as the position of a woman in a man’s world, and, for a woman who did not experience the world to its fullest, she wrote with surprising perception and emotion love poetry which left a mark in the history of literature. I decided to analyse some poems in which Emily Dickinson wrote about love from these different stranding points.
“My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun” A patriarchal society, such as the one Emily Dickinson lived in, had very controlled social norms and rules. One aspect of it Dickinson described in her poem “My Life had stood – a Loaded Gun”. It centers around a masculine figure, a “Master” and the speaker, “a Loaded Gun”. The “Master” gives the weapon power and allows it to fulfill its purpose. In return, the gun is there to serve the “Master” and protect him at all times. Undoubtedly, this poem depicts a relationship between an authoritative and a submissive person. It is with a romanticized tone that it approachesthe theme of love and union, one that can very easily be described by Shakespeare’s “marriage of true minds” portrayed in his sonnet 116. However, the last stanza of this poem brings this romantic side of it into question. Critics claim that the whole poem is a delusion of the lyrical I, merely a self assurance that it is through a union of power that the master and the servant can be brought to their full potential. “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—“
However, with these lines the poet seems to realize that a life through servitude does not bring one fulfillment, but only the illusion of it. More than once, Dickinson uses the expression “Master” to refer to males in her poetry. This can be taken as the way of her time and place, 19th century America along with the rest of the world, where men were still thought of as superior and the beholders of all power. With thisin mind, it is no surprise that the object of this poem, the gun, is simply taken up by a hunter, and thus bound to him forever. The image of love depicted in the poem, in which the sole purpose of the female – the gun is to serve her lover, seems to be a childish fantasy of submissive love. The lyrical I’s need to keep safe her...
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