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"I will put Chaos into 14 lines"

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Introduction

Edna St. Vincent Millay's "I will put Chaos into 14 lines" sonnet is very vague on the surface. If you dig deeper, there could be a variety of interpretations. One interpretation is that this sonnet could be about a man. 'Him' is referred to constantly throughout the sonnet. If you go with that theory, then the sonnet would be about a relationship with the man who seems chaotic to the narrator. The 'I' is trying desperately to make some sense of 'him'. Her goal is to 'make him good' (14). That is only one possible argument, which could be argued, based on textual clues. The more likely interpretation is that this sonnet is about writing a sonnet. What helps lead the reader to that conclusion is evidence from the first line: "I will put Chaos into fourteen lines" (1). 'Fourteen lines' is typically the length of a sonnet, and this particular sonnet is 14 lines. ...read more.

Middle

He escapes and "flood, fire, and demon" (4) are released in the next line. Chaos is finally caught "in the strict confines/ Of this sweet order" (5-6). At the end of the octave Chaos "mingles and combines" with the order. Now that the goal of the octave has been set up, the sestet can attempt to resolve the goal. The resolution is that now that Chaos and Order have intermingled, the writer can finish the sonnet. The turn in the sonnet comes in the sestet when the writer proclaims that "I have him." (11). The writer has been successful in putting the "Chaos into 14 lines" (1). What is the "Chaos" that the poet mentions in the first line? The chaos is referred to as 'him' in the second line. 'Him' is usually a pronoun for man. This again refers to the possible interpretation in the introduction. The 'him' brings up an image of a man and since it's a woman poet, the idea of a relationship emerges. ...read more.

Conclusion

Why is this relationship between Chaos and Order significant? It's important because it adds another dimension to the sonnet. It adds the image of the relationship. Keeping in mind that this is a sonnet about writing a sonnet, the relationship image adds some insight into the writer. The Chaos is her muse and the Order is the sonnet structure. The 'Chaos' that is her muse and ideas, is the one in control at the beginning of the poem. Then the 'Order' of the sonnet structure gains the control and the writer is about to finish the task that she set out to accomplish. The Chaos and the Order play against each other and in the end they come together to create this sonnet. Millay has accomplished what she set out to do in this sonnet. She has successfully written a sonnet about the writing process. She has written the sonnet with in the confines of the sonnet structure. She has been a slave to her muse but she has conquered it in the end. Her ideas about writing have been captured in this sonnet. She has been successful in her goal. ...read more.

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