Analysis Of John Donne 's ' The Great Chain Of Being ' Essay

Analysis Of John Donne 's ' The Great Chain Of Being ' Essay

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Obedience and disobedience were implicated themes in Renaissance Era poetry, whether the acts of such were toward man in John Donne’s work or toward God in John Milton’s. The concepts of obedience and disobedience can only make sense with a structural ranking or scale of entities. “The Great Chain of Being” is fundamental in the epic poem of Paradise Lost, as well as other poetry of the period. The beings and objects that held the most value were signified at the top of the chain, while the least valued were depicted at the bottom. God and the angels beneath him are positioned at the top end of the chain, existing entirely as spirit forms. Humans, capable of making mistakes and always changing are liable to change position. Spirit, rather, cannot do so. Their permanent status is important in the reality of the chain. Objects are also impossible to change location in the hierarchy. Earthly material is situated at the bottom, and every successor in the chain gains attributes, as well as retains attributes from its predecessor. Earthly material possesses existence; plants exist and hold life; animals exist, hold life, gain movement and hunger, etc. Man is seen as possessing flesh as those below him, but also sould as those above him. This creates a moral conflict. Desire of the spirit is morally higher, while desire of the flesh is morally lower. One brings man closer to God, while the other drives him further away. Milton addresses this conflict with the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise Lost.
The hierarchy within John Donne’s “To His Mistress Going to Bed” is simply between a man and woman. Because of the position of woman below man on the spectrum, the woman in the poem is expected to follow the commands of the man. Instead we perc...


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...on. When God created the animals in Paradise they were all obedient, including the snake. After Satan’s infection, the snake becomes bad. Also, Satan and all of his followers are turned into serpents by God as punishment for what they’ve done.
In conclusion, through the reading of Paradise Lost one can ascertain that the roles of objects, man, and spirit are all predetermined by God. It is everyone’s duty to act within the position they’ve been given by God. Reality is not perfect, mainly caused by free will, which if used selfishly, can lead to death and destruction. If selflessness occurs, then all of life can achieve a sort of utopia in which everyone and everything lives at peace. This utopia can last for eternity, as long as everyone continues to recognize God and all others superior to them. The world is not perfect and in itself serves as a test of obedience.

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