Essay about John Donne's A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

Essay about John Donne's A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

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Gender norms and ideals go as far as humanity goes; scientific and religious histories of mankind both accept the different roles of men and women in a household. During the age of cavemen, women used to do the gardening and cooking while men were in charge of hunting and providing for the family; which is similar to Adam and Eve’s life after being cast away from Eden. These norms and ideals have continued and altered throughout history and some still exist. The Baroque age was not an exception to these ideals. While so many books published in the Baroque age describing the duties of women, whether they are unmarried virgins, wives or widows, several rules derived from such books caused tension in everyday household relationships. John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” is an excellent example of the dichotomy between the expectations of each gender and the common household relations.
The dichotomy starts with the title of the poem in which the term valediction conveys the romantic aspect of the relationship between Donne and his wife; while forbidding mourning is a formal order made by the head of the family to his wife. Donne wrote this poem because he was leaving for a continental journey and his wife as any woman in that age, had to stay back home; business trips were described to be a male-dominated job; yet writing a poem based on their separation related issues is considered a romantic gesture which would create a duality between the roles and norms.
The poem starts with Donne comparing their parting to the death of virtuous men as if virtue was a manly quality; he then conveys his concern about his wife publicly speaking about it. He gently preaches to her by saying “so let us melt, and make no noise”, like the ...


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...r roles complicates the daily household experience between Baroque married couples. Donne uses remarkable terms to describe his love and affection towards his wife which is rarely expected in the household duties of the Baroque, while his insistence about his wife keeping silent in public about their parting and staying firm till he comes back is an evident example of those norms. However, the poem “A Valediction: Forbidding mourning” mostly complicates the Baroque gender norms rather than supporting them. Men or women in the Baroque age would be confused about the way norms are laid out in this poem due to the contradictions between the roles and Donne’s affection towards his wife. In this age, the poem could be seen as a romantic gesture by which, Donne tries to plant hope in his wife’s heart, which is a great contradiction to the gender roles of the Baroque age.

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