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The Poetic Power Struggle

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The Poetic Power Struggle

In the world, even today, two of the greatest powers--God and Satan--are said to be men. It makes some sense then that Emily Dickinson uses a man as the dominating power in her poems. In both My Life Had Stood--A Loaded Gun and Because I Could Not Stop for Death the person thought to be in control is defined by the pronoun “he”, but actually the woman is undermining the real control.

Since the days of the ancient Greeks, when Hades ruled the Underworld, death has been a man. In Emily Dickinson’s poem, Because I Could Not Stop for Death, it is made very clear that death is a man through Dickinson’s use of the pronoun “he”. “He kindly stopped for me”, “He knew no haste”, and “For His civility” clearly defines death, the thought to be power, as a male. The same is true for My Life Had Stood--A Loaded Gun. My Life Had Stood--A Loaded Gun is a metaphor for a woman finally seeing her true ability, but until then, she is just a “loaded gun”, controlled by a man and ready to go off. The “he” in this poem is

the owner of a gun. “And everytime I speak for Him”, “To foe of His...”, and “Through I than He...” clearly identifies the controller, the “master”, or “owner” of the gun as a man.

The dominating figure in both poems is the man. In My Life Has Stood--A Loaded Gun the male is controlling the woman as an owner, a hunter, controls his gun. She is at his disposal--she protects him and keeps him safe. She has to be compliant to his command. Her life is defined by his power and control. In I Could Not Stop For Death the woman is forced to “put away” her “labor and” her “leisures too” because he, death, is there for her. He is controlling her decisions and choices just by being there.

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