What are some binary oppositions in Dickinson's poem, "My Life had stood a Loaded Gun"? [http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/cs6/gun.html]

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Emily Dickinson's intense and powerful poem is an abstruse one that defies exact interpretions. However, the use of binary oppositions, complementary oppositions that define each other, do contribute and reinforce certain meanings. For instance, the juxtaposition of destructive power with pleasure--

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

emphasizes the anger that the speaker feels with her repression. Further, the speaker wrestles to rearrange language in her effort to maintain her determination to express herself and exert power. For example, in these lines of binary opposition,

Though I than He - may longer live
He longer must - than I -

the speaker insists that "He," her poetry and expression that is masculine because it exerts an independence and force, must outlive her so that she will have had power. Thus, the destructive power, the "loaded gun" of her anger and expression, can, then, bring her joy.

 

 

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