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Critical review of The Flea- John Donne

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Introduction

The Flea- John Donne The situation described in the poem is the narrator trying to persuade his girlfriend to sleep with him. Bearing in mind the social context of the poem, the girl is going to need quite a lot of persuading. This is where the flea comes in. The idea of sex being like a flea is sustained throughout the poem thus making it a sustained metaphor. In the sixteen hundreds, fleas were just a common fact of life. Everybody had them, even rich people. I think it is quite a clever persuasive device to compare something that was such a huge thing in those days, to something which is just a part of everyday life that everyone had to deal with. This trivialises the situation the girl sees as being so important thus persuading her to sleep with her boyfriend. The flea is an unusual participant of a love poem but bearing in mind the context and content of the poem it seems quite suitable. I think the narrator sees the process of the flea jumping from his body to the body of his girlfriend and mingling both of their blood as being quite romantic. ...read more.

Middle

In line one of stanza two the poet tries to implore his mistress to refrain from killing the flea. He is slightly mocking her when he says "three lives in one flea spare" which means he is asking her to spare the life of the flea which contains both of their blood. He then goes on to persuade her that they are practically married so they might as well have sex anyway and that the flea represents their "marriage bed". There are many sexual innuendos in the first two stanzas. The phrase "pampered swells" when referring to the flea could also be used to describe what happens to a certain male organ when he gets aroused. "It sucked me first and then sucked thee" could also have sexual implementations. In stanza two, the poet says that the flea represents their marital bed and them having sex. There are also religious references in the first two stanzas; the first being that they are "cloistered in these living walls of jet". Nuns and monks lived in cloisters and had no contact with anyone from the outside world; this is what the narrator accuses the girls parents of doing to her. ...read more.

Conclusion

His argument changes perspective in the third stanza tries yet again to convince the girl to have sex with the narrator. He tries to convince the girl that having sex is as painless as squashing a flea. The phrase "Tis true how false fears be" tells the girl that she has false fears when it comes to having sex. At this point of the poem, the mistress is probably is turmoil as to what she wants to do; she could have sex with her boyfriend to keep him happy and stop him complaining, or she could keep saying no and hold on to her virginity and dignity. The poet recovers the argument by trying to convince the girl that having sex is as painless as squashing a flea. The "honour" of sex, which she has not allowed the narrator, has been wasted upon the death of the flea. All the passion she should have saved for him was spent on killing the flea. I would not say this is a love poem, as the narrator never once says he loves his mistress. The entire poem is spent trying to persuade the girl to sleep with the narrator. If he really loved her, he would not pressurise her into having sex with him. ...read more.

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