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The Flea by John Donne

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The Flea by 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. In those days people believed that

babies were conceived through the mingling of blood so the fact that

the flea has both of their blood gives the impression that the flea

has done more with the girl than her boyfriend has.

The flea plays quite a substantial role in the first stanza as the

narrator tells us why the poem is linked to a flea. He tries to

persuade his girlfriend that the flea has taken both of their blood

which, in the sixteenth century views is equal to having sex and their

"two bloods mingled be". When the narrator compares a flea sucking his

girlfriend's blo...

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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.
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