The Flea - John Donne
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THE FLEA Shai Steeck English 2 Essay 1 "The Flea" John Donne Observe a typical bar; every Saturday night sweat drenched bodies emitting alcohol and pheromones from every pore, exchange conversation, pleasantries, and yes even sex (perhaps not directly in view but certainly eluded to). Is this animalistic, barbaric behavior acceptable? Should sex be taken so lightheartedly? Or do we take it to seriously; guarding sex like it was the Holy Grail, or the secret to life itself? These questions may be to deep and pointed for most to approach, yet John Donne in his poem "The Flea" wades through them like the kiddy pool. In this clever poem Donne uses a flea, blood, and the murder of the flea as an analogy for the oldest most primal exchange, sex. Donne, through symbolic images, not only questions the validity of coveting virginity but also the importance of sex as it pertains to life. The metaphors in "The Flea" are plentiful, but the symbols repeated throughout the poem are clear, beginning with the most prevalent, and the flea.
After the speaker's lady kills the flea he asks her if she has "purpled her nail in the blood of innocence". Using Donne's metaphor as a basis for interpretation the result is that he asks her if they finish the act of sex (kill the flea) if it will have really diminished her innocence. The speaker is commenting that sex does not have the power to take away innocence or life. The murder of the flea also adds to the overall metaphor. When the speaker and his lady's blood is mixed in the flea the speaker refers to the flea as a marriage, therefore the exchange of life (blood) during sex forms a marriage between the partners. The narrator asks his lady not to kill the flea, which is symbolic of the end of sex, or orgasm. It was popular belief at the time this poem was written, that every time a man had sex his life was shortened, thus it is reasonable to say that the speaker is also representing the murder of the flea as his own life being taken by his lady during the act of sex.
For example disease, pregnancy, spiritual repercussions, and countless emotional issues, all which tend to impact more of the feminine population. In this poem the speaker does not seem to be very respectful of the female he is pursuing. Of course that is conducive to the time but it also says something about the validity of the message of the poem. In synopsis the flea, blood and death of the flea are all used as metaphors for sex; the exchange of life force (a very important thing) within the act of sex (represented as something as insignificant as a flea) and then orgasm, which can feel important and significant for a period of time but is really only as important as the death of a flea. The speaker in this poem hopes to convince his lady to sleep with him by trivializing sex and comparing it to something as insignificant as a flea. Meanwhile I say lady, screw the speaker and the flea you would get more of a commitment from a machine than a guy as afraid of human contact as this one.
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