A Psychoanalytic Analysis of To His Coy Mistress by Andrew Marvell
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A satisfactory understanding of a literary work necessitates a multi-level investigation—of the poem’s context, of the text itself, of the poem’s socio-political implications, of the poem’s trans-cultural implications, and of the Christian implications.
To see a great work of fiction or a great poem primarily as a psychological case study,it means that we have to miss its real significance,its real meaning.Literary interpretation and psychoanalysis are two different field,though they are closely associated,they can in no sense be regarded as parts of one discipline.The literary cristic who views the masterpiece only through the lens of Freud, sees art only through a glass darkly,on the other hand,the reader who rejects psychoanalysis deprives himself of valuable tool in understanding not only literature,but human nature and himself as well.
One of the most celebrated carpe diem poems in British literature,it has been praised by numerous literary scholars and critics fot its brilliantly wrought form,thematic significance,metaphysical conceits,paradox and irony.Unfortunately,not many of the readers thoroughly understand this poem.They will notice that its male speaker,an erudite man,tries to persuade a reluctant mistress to accept his proposal of physical love,those who are unfamiliar with the conventions of seventeenth century metpshysical poetry may feel that the poem is merely “weird”,”strange” or “sexiest”.They recognize that there is something questionable about the male suitor’s use of flowerly language in the first stanza.They also do not like the “bizarre” images in the second stanza “That long-preserved virginity/And your quaint horror turn to dust/And into ashes all my lo...
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... begins his proposition of love by stating an impossible condition:”Had we but world enough,and time/,This coyness,Lady,were no crime.” His objective,despite the contradictory deceptiveness of “vegetable love”,is nevertheless the same:the woman must capitulate to his desires.It is only matter of time.From the eternal burning of vegetable passion,in the face of reality,we see that the love must end,the same as sexual profligacy,in dust.In the final stanza the speaker relaxes his harsh irony,here,too,the sexual image is evident.The fire image,which smolders in stanza one and turns to ashes in stanza two,explodes into passion in this concluding stanza.The poet conveys a sense of desperate ecstasy.
Marvell’s great poem is not only a glorification of sexual activity,it deals with the total human psyche,many facets of which are both unpleasant and unconscious.