Analysis of John Donne's Poem, The Flea

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The Flea

John Donne’s poems are similar in their content. They usually point out at same topics like love, lust, sex and religion; only they are dissimilar in the feelings they express. These subjects reflect the different stages of his life: the lust of his youth, the love of his married middle age, and the piety of the latter part of his life. His poem,’ The Flea’ represents the restless feeling of lust during his youthful days but it comes together with a true respect for women through the metaphysical conceit of the flea as a church in the rhythm of the sexual act.

The speaker in "The Flea" is a restless, would-be lover who is trying to convince his beloved to give her virginity to him. Therefore, to convince his lover, the speaker employs a flea that is buzzing around the two to form three arguments. The first stanza compares sexual intercourse to two people being bitten by the same flea. Both are connected by "two bloods mingled (Donne 1081)"; and the act of sex is defined by the mixing of fluids, not an act of love or lust. Yet the tone of the passage is one of playful curiosity, which suggests the smile on the face of the speaker as he envisions achieving his lusty goal. We can see the playfulness in his selection and treatment of the subject. A flea is not a normal object held in the light of love; in raising this conceit, we can see the unconventional way the speaker tries to sell his argument. He acts jealous of the flea because it received her blood “before it woo (1081).” The argument is not intense or angry; it ends with a mock sigh: “And this, alas, is more than we would do (1081).” The playful conceit of the first stanza lays the ground for the more outlandish claims of the second and third.

The speaker next ...

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...urch. And even though he desires her, his love and respect for women is always present. “The Flea” is its own mingling of lust, love, and Christianity, married by Donne.

Works Cited

Donne, John. "The Flea." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. New York: M. H. Abrams, 1993. 1081.

Eliot, T S. "Dissocation of Sensibility." Essays in Criticism 2 (1952): 213-214. Oxford Journals.

Evans, Robert C. "Literary Contexts in Poetry: John Donne's "the Flea"" Great Neck Publishing (2006): 1. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. Northeast Lakeview, San Antonio. 17 Apr. 2008. Keyword: John Donne The Flea.

Raynie, Stephen A. "The Womans Body and the Obstacle of Specious Honor in Donne's 'the Flea'" University of Colorado Dept. of English 38 (2001): 40. Literary Reference Center. EBSCO. Northeast Lakeview, San Antonio. 11 Apr. 2008. Keyword: John Donne’s ‘The Flea’
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